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“What precisely is the virtue of justice?
It is that perfection of man’s will which inclines him to desire in all things, spontaneously an unceasingly, the good of the society of which he is a par; and also to desire that each should have what is his due.” – Fr. Pegues, O.P., Catechism of the “Summa Theoogica”

I shall endeavour to address concerns about particular and distributive justice. These matters are always relevant, of course, but particularly so in this age when political, economic, and social forces are colliding so obviously and prominently.

Judgment (which we are called by our Lord to righteously exercise), called here “particular justice,” is “determining precisely what is due each person,” (ibid.) whether in civil law, ecclesiastical law, or mere interpersonal relations (society at large). Distributive justice is a species of particular justice wherein we safeguard the fairness in the relations that exist between the society as a whole and the individuals of which it is comprised. Commutative justice is the safeguarding of fairness among or between men in the same society.

Fr. Pegues frames things so that we may better grasp them. Sins against distributive justice consist in being a respecter of persons.

I intend to delve into this realm in the next series of posts, and then move along to the other species of particular justice and the commensurate rights and responsibilities.

It’s good to be back at the keyboard. Bear with me as I stretch out and work out the kinks.

God bless you all.

I don’t know why, but I think today’s a good day to resurrect the blog.

Let me know by comment if anyone gets a notification of this post, please.

I have been woefully remiss in my blogging duties, for which I apologize to both my readers.

Here’s a philosophical question to ponder: does Aquinas’ statement in the S.Th. I, q1, art 1 “It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason” hold true when stated conversely: “It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be philosophical science built up by human reason besides a knowledge revealed by God”?

Let me know in the combox.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, William Cardinal Levada, together with the Secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship, Abp. Augustine DiNoia, OP, announced the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution directed toward the establishment of permanent Personal Ordinariates for Anglican Christians to be brought into full, visible communion with the successor to St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome. Assuredly, some questions arise, but the provisions as spelled out in the press release are stunning.

Today is the feast day of St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, an order which has historically been keen on reconciling Anglicans with Rome. Passionist Blessed Dominic Barberi received Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman into the Church after his famous Oxford Movement proved to his satisfaction that true Catholicity is to be found in communion with the Holy See.

Having been for a time a devotee of the Book of Common Prayer, I welcome today’s news with a joyful heart as a sign to the nations that Christ’s Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

[Ed. to correct Cardinal Newman’s title. Apologies for my error.]

TF takes pains to try to respond to my criticism, and fails. 

He says I am confused about his argument. Let us see. His post was titled “What did the Early Church think of Prayer for the Dead?” [emphasis mine]. He cites Lactantius talking about 1) pagan rituals, 2) worshipping images of dead men, 3) reverencing merely the remains of those dead men who are now “earth,” as Lactantius puts it, and 4) making prayers to dead men. Who is confused? Me, for pointing out that “for” in TF’s title does not equal “to” in Lactantius? Okay. Got it.

TF chides “we use Jerome in two ways (1) for his teachings to the extent that they are persuasive, having been founded upon Scripture and (2) for historical reference” and insinuates that I am confused (one of TF’s favorite allegations, I am coming to see) about why he cites whom he cites. No, I am not, and I thank TF for the frank admission that he “uses” the Fathers anachronistically to support his regula fide, unknown though it was for the first millenium and a half of the Church, as it suits. I am furthermore not confused about the selectivity of his citations. I didn’t realize I was at all ambiguous in my criticism, such that I needed to “man up” and come right out and say what I came right out and said, and reiterated with elaboration courtesy of the improperly selective TF himself. He, like other Reformed before him, has attempted to selectively cite Fathers in such a way as to make them appear to support his unbiblical, self-contradictory, and novel sola scriptura, only to have had the nakedness of the emperor pointed out to them time and again with contextual and relativizing citations of those same and other Fathers, but that does not dissuade him from continuing to do so, nor from critizing others for that which he himself does, in this case, namely, display confusion (about his own argument, apparently, unless somehow “to” and “for” are synonomous prepositions in TF’s world; ah, but that would indicate confusion of another kind). But, in point of fact, TF linked to a post of his own where he at least in theory admits of a distinction between prayers “to,” prayers “through,” and prayers “for” the dead. So why, then, would he title his post “What did the Early Church think of Prayer for the Dead?” and go on to cite an irrelevant bit from Lactantius which had nothing to do with prayers for the dead? And then call me confused? Why, TF? Why did you do that?

“The question is whether this was an apostolic teaching or a later innovation. The historical testimony of Lactantius helps to demonstrate that it was a later innovation,” says TF. Note the improper conflation of prayers to, through, and for into a singular “it” which is supposedly a “later innovation.” Lactantius was addressing pagans who had been engaged in their pagan practices and rites of worshipping images of dead men and praying to dead men long before the Early Church, so one wonders why TF thinks this passage from Lactantius was relevant and supports the assertion he makes, that Lactantius’ criticism of pagans somehow demonstrates the later innovation of Christian veneration of saints and prayers for the faithful departed. Perhaps TF took Pastor King’s word for it that Lactantius was talking to Constantine about Christian practices which had crept in? But Lactantius was not doing that, as a cursory examination of book 1 of Lactantius’ Institutes or a glance at chapter 1 of book II — from which TF/King’s citation comes — would have informed him. This, again, makes one wonder about TF’s competence to treat of the matter.

TF presses on: “The combination of hubris and ignorance in this comment are startling. As even the so-called Catholic Encyclopedia points out, Lactantius’ Divine Institutes ‘was the first attempt at a systematic exposition of Christian theology in Latin.’ (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, p. 736) Lactantius was, in essence, the pioneer in systematic theology among the Latin-speakers.”

My hubris and ignorance notwithstanding, an initial attempt at systematizing Christian theology in Latin does not necessarily entail a good or orthodox systematization of Christian theology in Latin. You would apparently have us believe first is best. Surely you don’t mean that, so this criticism, besides being ad hominem, is irrelevant.

He continues: “What’s worse, though, is that Mr. Burgess then goes on to provide a quotation from Lactantius that is completely untroubling. In fact, it sounds rather like Paul the apostle who quotes from a pagan poet to make a Christian point. Undoubtedly there were problems in Lactantius’ theology, but who is free from error?” The prophets, the Jewish prophets, TF, that’s who were free from error. That’s who Lactantius dismissed in the quote I provided in favor of the pagan philosophers. Shall I quote it again? I think I shall: “But let us leave the testimony of prophets, lest a proof derived from those who are universally disbelieved should appear insufficient. Let us come to authors, and for the demonstration of the truth let us cite as witnesses those very persons whom they are accustomed to make use of against us—I mean poets and philosophers. From these we cannot fail in proving the unity of God; not that they had ascertained the truth, but that the force of the truth itself is so great, that no one can be so blind as not to see the divine brightness presenting itself to his eyes. The poets, therefore, however much they adorned the gods in their poems, and amplified their exploits with the highest praises, yet very frequently confess that all things are held together and governed by one spirit or mind. Orpheus, who is the most ancient of the poets, and coeval with the gods themselves—since it is reported that he sailed among the Argonauts together with the sons of Tyndarus and Hercules,— speaks of the true and great God as the first-born, because nothing was produced before Him, but all things sprung from Him.” This is not the tack that St. Paul took on the Areopagus, contrary to TF’s assertion. The prophets were “universally disbelieved”? What? This does not make sense, much less is it orthodox. It is a rhetorical flourish, nothing more. And it was designed to appeal to a certain, classical Latin audience. Not a profoundly Christian one. Or does TF also wish to extol the deep theological insight and orthodoxy of Constantine now? I daresay he does not. See also Schaff’s comments: “Lactantius, moved, perhaps, by Hosius or Eusebius, undertakes the instruction of the Emperor, while seeming only to copy the example of Justin writing to Antoninus Pius. The Institutes, it is true, had been begun at an earlier date; but he economizes, for a new purpose, the material, in which, perhaps, he had only purposed to follow up the work of his teacher, in language better fitted to the polite, for refuting heathenism. I cannot doubt that he aimed, in pure Latinity, to win the Emperor and his court to a deeper and purer conviction of divine truth: to more than a feeble and possibly superstitious idea that it was useless to contend with it, and that the gods of the empire were impotent to protect themselves against Christian progress and its masterly exposures of their shame and nothingness.  

In language which has given him the title of the Christian Cicero, Lactantius employs Cicero himself as a defender of the truth; correcting him, indeed, and overruling his mistakes, rebuking his pusillanimity, and justly censuring him, (1) in philosophy, for declaring it no rule of action, however ennobling its precepts; and (2) in religion, for not venturing to profess conclusions to which his reasonings necessarily tend. All this is admirably adapted to carry on the work of Christian Fathers and Apologists under the change of times. He and Arnobius furnish but a supplement to the real teachers of the Church, and are not to be always depended on in statements of doctrine. They write like earnest converts, but not like theologians; yet, although their loose expressions are often inconsistent one with another, it is manifest that their design is to support orthodoxy as it had been defined by abler expounders. I think the large respect which Lactantius pays to the testimony of the Sibyls was addressed to the class with which he had to deal. Constantine was greatly influenced by such testimonies, if we may judge from his own liberal quotations…”

Yes, yes, I must have gotten it from the Catholic Encyclopedia, TF. Must have, for you couldn’t possibly be wrong!! You simply must have “fully addressed and adequately rebutted” me! Armchair psychoanalysis can be fun, I see what you mean. Maybe I’ll try some more in a while. In point of fact, though, my limited point about Lactantius’ shortcomings as a theologian and in his knowledge of Scripture came from Schaff and the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

TF, again with the Freud impression: “UPDATE: I see that Mr. Burgess has not only left his comment on my original post but provided his comment on his own web page as well – so important he thinks his correction to be.” Do you think your remarks are equally or more important, having posted them at your own site as a new post rather than a reply in a combox? Do you routinely publish all of my criticisms such that it would have been ridiculously superfluous to have also posted my comment here, too? Really, TF. Your slip is showing. (That’s a pun on the above Freud reference, get it?)

Yes, while we appreciate one another’s attempts, whatever their motivations, I should think that your “refutation” leaves everything to be desired as yet, TF. I shouldn’t wonder if you do get back to it as quickly as you did your most recent attempt. Then again, I shouldn’t wonder if you don’t.

St. Jerome, whom you enjoy quoting when the occasion suits, said of Lactantius, “If only Lactantius, almost a river of Ciceronian eloquence, had been able to uphold our cause with the same facility with which he overturns that of our adversaries!” Lactantius was not a good theologian; indeed, he was, in the words of those who know his works best, a fine Latin rhetorician but woefully ignorant of the Scriptures and Christian doctrine. When one reads his writings, especially the Divine Institutes, this becomes quickly apparent. A fine theologian does not relate the story of Heracles/Hercules as though it were true. A fine theologian well studied and well versed in doctrine and systematic theology does not say “But let us leave the testimony of prophets, lest a proof derived from those who are universally disbelieved should appear insufficient. Let us come to authors, and for the demonstration of the truth let us cite as witnesses those very persons whom they are accustomed to make use of against us—I mean poets and philosophers. From these we cannot fail in proving the unity of God; not that they had ascertained the truth, but that the force of the truth itself is so great, that no one can be so blind as not to see the divine brightness presenting itself to his eyes. The poets, therefore, however much they adorned the gods in their poems, and amplified their exploits with the highest praises, yet very frequently confess that all things are held together and governed by one spirit or mind. Orpheus, who is the most ancient of the poets, and coeval with the gods themselves—since it is reported that he sailed among the Argonauts together with the sons of Tyndarus and Hercules,— speaks of the true and great God as the first-born, because nothing was produced before Him, but all things sprung from Him.”

Perhaps you and Pastor King ought to rethink the citation. And rethink the other Fathers, ones not eventually considered heretical as Lactantius was, as concerns their views on prayers through the faithful departed, starting with, say, Augustine.

 which was begun at Reginald de Piperno’s The Supplement, here. My next response follows:

 Very well. But perhaps you could actually clarify? Because it seems that your position amounts to:
1. All that is necessary for salvation is clearly revealed in Scripture.
2. The list of all that is necessary for salvation is not clearly revealed in Scripture.

#2 could either be taken to mean that the “list” is revealed in Scripture but not clearly so, or that the list is neither clearly nor obscurely revealed in Scripture. Either of these require a tradition: a hermeneutical key in the first instance, or a repudiation of sola scriptura in the second. There does not appear to be a third option, for a hermeneutical key which allows one to discern all that which is necessary for salvation from Scripture must either be drawn exclusively from Scripture, or it must be added thereunto.

If drawn from Scripture exclusively (thus avoiding the “tradition” charge, as you would have it), then the key needs at least to be as clear as the list if not moreso, and more clear than the contents themselves as well, probably. Where in Scripture is the hermeneutical key given? Presuming, arguendo, that the key which the Reformed claim to utilize does come exclusively from Scripture, one who approaches Scripture ought to be able to isolate it in one or more passages and show how it inexorably leads to a list of necessary doctrinal content. It also seems inescapable that such a key itself needs to be part of the canon of necessary doctrinal content, or else the position is self-defeating. So, we have a somewhat circular process, it seems.

On the other hand, the hermeneutical key could be a traditional method of approaching Scripture and not drawn therefrom. It appears you wish to deny that such is the case, so I see little point in developing such a line.  You stated you don’t know where I would get the idea you would accept such an assertion about your position; that’s fine. The problem remains, though, that you stated that although the indispensible doctrines are clearly revealed in Scripture, the list thereof is not. But the list must be a function of the hermeneutical key which must – for consistent advocates of all of the Reformation solas – itself be considered doctrinally indispensible. It is manifestly absurd to maintain that the way to interpret, categorize, systematize, etc., sacred Scripture when indispensible doctrinal content is in view is itself dispensible. This is untenable. Succinctly stated, that position would be

1 All that is necessary for salvation is clearly revealed in Scripture but

2 there is no clearly revealed list of what ‘all’ those things are

3 nor is there any clearly revealed method for determining them even though faith in these essentials is a requisite for salvation (sola fide)

4 and assurance of salvation is a hallmark of each of the actually elect (WLC Q 80 & 81)

5 such that therefore one must know, believe, and profess all that which is necessary for salvation.

But one cannot do so without a clearly revealed definition of all that which is required for salvation, and you have stated that such a list is not clearly revealed in Scripture, thus leaving you with the uncomfortable position of needing an ascriptural hermeneutical key, i.e., a tradition, as I surmised. If you wish to assert some third option, please do. If you wish to take issue with the premises of my syllogism, please do. But as it stands, you did not, in fact clarify anything with regard to the point of RdP’s post, in my opinion. You’ve stated you didn’t wish to argue the matter at The Supplement, but I for one would appreciate a rather more detailed clarification of your supposed clarification.

As so often happens, I have been provided with a springboard for my planned posts on the Atonement by another blogger, and in this case, another blogger’s combox. So, with a wink and a nod to TF and his interlocutor, John, I shall begin.

Exodus 12 in almost any English translation, particularly at verse 6, is somewhat misleading because of a peculiar Hebrew idiomatic expression. Almost all of the translations of that verse say that the sacrifice is to be made “in the twilight,” or “in the evening.” This makes TF’s response to John concerning the timing of the sacrifice understandable. If, however, one has some familiarity with biblical Hebrew and/or access to good Catholic commentaries, such as the so-called “Haydock Bible,” one realizes that the Hebrew phrase in question is literally “between the evenings,” or “between the suns.” Hebrews then, as has been mentioned, reckoned time and the division of the day differently: the day started after sundown, and continued overnight, through dawn, through noontime, and into the twilight until the sundown of what we would call the next day. However, they had a concept which referred to the time from mid-afternoon (around 3:00 p.m.) until twilight. This period (of what was the end of their day) is called “between the two suns,” or “between the two evenings.” Here’s a link to the Westminster Leningrad Codex/KJV Hebrew-English Interlinear text.

Thus, when the Lord commanded the Hebrews to sacrifice their lamb or kid “between the two evenings,” they were sacrificing it in the latter part of one day, then waiting until the next day to partake of the roasted meat, the “sacrifice of the feast.” The “metonymy” which TF wishes to invoke seems more than a little too convenient. The evidence of the text is that the participation of the Hebrews in the eating of the lamb is a participation in the sacrificial killing which took place the previous day. The sacrificial character of the feast is simply not in question.

The Hebrews were led out of Egypt and through the desert (instead of being led through the Philistine territory, where battle might have severely tempted the Israelites to return to Egypt; great is the God Who does not test us beyond what we are able to bear with His saving help!) and were provided quail in the evening and manna in the morning. They were to gather enough for the day, and anything else was caused to moulder and rendered useless. Except on the day prior to the Sabbath. Then the people were provided enough for two days’ worth so that they might be able to keep the Sabbath holy and rest in the provision of the Lord. It is in this context that the Passover sacrifice is presented, and not just once. Sometimes it takes more than one time to learn a lesson. I will continue this in the next installment, God willing.

Once a man was walking his usual route to work. He worked at a mid-sized law firm in Ohio. He wanted to help bus drivers get better pay and benefits. Unfortunately, there was a bus line which crossed the crosswalk he used every day at the same time, since he was a punctilious soul. He had, in many meetings with the bus drivers’ union, told them repeatedly about the buses crossing the crosswalk against the light, sometimes causing him to have to step back and wave his fist at the passing buses. The drivers, though, had been trained to watch the traffic light above and not the white pedestrian light to the side, which they could not see nearly as well, and sometimes the green light was on at the same time as the white light. Also, in regular meetings with the drivers and the management, he repeatedly cozied up to the management, often calling the drivers “the hired help,” thus causing the drivers some measure of ire and mistrust. He explained that this is what they in fact were, and they should not be offended. He meant them well, after all, despite not actually accomplishing anything for them, and unwittingly (perhaps) working against their interests in dealings. Well, one day the lawyer had had enough. He saw the bus coming at full tilt toward the crosswalk. He raised his fist in defiance and hollered “Maniac! Hired help! How dare you!” And he stepped onto the street at the last possible moment in front of the bus. Of course, the driver did not suddenly realize the error of his ways, magically stop the bus,  and thank the lawyer very much; rather, events conspired to bring the demise of the lawyer.  The lawyer may or may not have been right, but he was, in the end, imprudent. And very, very, dead. And the union took a pay cut and a few were laid off. The end.

Having read much lately around the web concerning presuppositionalism, scripturalism, evidentialism, justified true belief, Gettier problems, undefeatbility, and so on, I thought I’d take a moment to hearken back to the priority of ontology vis-a-vis epistemology.

St. Thomas, following Aristotle, teaches that the intelligible being, the intelligible reality, existing in sense objects is the first object of the first act of our intellect, i. e.: that apprehension which precedes the act of judging. Listen to his words: “The intellect’s first act is to know being, reality, because an object is knowable only in the degree in which it is actual. Hence being, entity, reality, is the first and proper object of understanding, just as sound is the first object of hearing.” (‘Primo in conceptione intellectus cadit ens; quia secundum hoc unumquodque cognoscibile est in quantum est actu; unde ens est proprium objectum intellectus et sic est primum intelligibile, sicut sonus est primum audibile.’ Ia, q. 5, a. 2. Cf. also Ia, q. 85, a3; Ia IIae, q. 94, a. 2; Cont. Gent.: II, 83; De veritate, q. 1, a. I.)

-Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, Reality: a Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, ch. 4

Our thoughts about truth are thoughts about objects of truth. That is, they are about objective reality. Reality, of course, is that which exists; that which is most or most truly real is that which exists in actuality and not in potentiality. So, the most real is that about which (Whom, actually) it cannot be stated that A) it is in some way not (about which, more, presently), B) it is in some way in potentiality, C) it is in some way contingent, and D) it is in some way terminable.

We think, which is action. Our thoughts are thus real, because they happen; they do not reside in some “potentiality.” I am not sure when people first started proposing or believing (also actions, of course) that thought was less real, not real, or the like. I don’t think it’s debatable that angelic forces are the impetus for such proto-gnosticism. We contend with principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12) who, as we also read in chapter 23 of Garrigou-LaGrange’s book, are described thus: “The nature of his ideas, at once universal and concrete, make the angel’s knowledge intuitive, not in any way successive and discursive. He sees at a glance the particular in the universal, the conclusion in the principle, the means in the end.”

For the same reason his act of judging does not proceed by comparing and separating different ideas.  By his purely intuitive apprehension of the essence of a thing, he sees at once all characteristics of that essence, for example, he simultaneously sees all man’s human and created characteristics, for instance, that man’s essence is not man’s existence, then man’s existence is necessarily given and preserved by divine causality.

Why this immense distance between angel and man? Because, seeing intuitively, the angel sees without medium, as in clearest midday, an immensely higher object, sees the intelligible world of spirits, whereas man’s intellect, the most feeble of all intellects, having as object the lowest order of intelligibility, must be satisfied with twilight glances into the faint mirror of the sense world.

A further consequence is that the angel’s intuitive vision is also infallible. But while he can make no mistake in his natural knowledge, he can deceive himself in the supernatural order, on the question, for example, whether this or that individual man is in the state of grace. Likewise he may deceive himself in forecasting the contingent future, above all in attempting to know the future free acts of men, or the immanent secrets of man’s heart, secrets which are in no way necessarily linked with the nature of our soul or with external physical realities. The secrets of the heart are not fragments of the material world, they do not result from the interplay of physical forces.



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