Cranky Thomist Blasts Bishops’ Toxic Natural Law Groupthink

The Fool is delighted to introduce a new voice from the peanut gallery that is The Pope’s Fool … The Cranky Thomist!

The Cranky Thomist

November 16, 2014
By The Cranky Thomist

I think therefore I am. But what a minute! What happens when I space out? Do I cease to exist? And do I exist again when I start thinking again?

Agnes cartoon by Tony CochranPhilosophy is awesome! However, unorthodox, anti-scientific pseudo-philosophy is not. Case in point—the toxic natural law idea that has gotten firmly stuck in the papal and episcopal mindset for decades now.

The groupthink goes like this: Natural law means that you look at nature and figure out morality from that. First you see that God made man and woman. And then you see that men and women make babies. And then you conclude that contraception is immoral. And homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. And in vitro fertilization is a sin (rather than a blessing that helps people create families). And then you say that all of it is based on the “observance of the precepts of the natural law.” Seriously???

Natural law has been around since ancient Greece and was embraced in the Catholic intellectual tradition by St. Thomas Aquinas. It’s easy enough for anyone to understand, and has nothing to do with looking at nature and making stuff up.

According to Aquinas, natural law works like this. The primary natural law, upon which all other laws are based, is that good be done and evil avoided. So we figure out what makes humans grow towards the good and derive morality and law from that (with good in the Christian sense being defined as that which moves us toward the love of God and fellow creatures in charity). As Aquinas says, “Since good is grasped as always desirable, the first premise in reason’s planning of action is that good is to be done and evil avoided” (Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 94. 2).

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Cardinal Shocked that Birth Control Encyclical Lacks Natural Law Argument

By The The Pope’s Fool News Service
October 28, 2014

The Popes Fool News Service (We Make Stuff Up)VATICAN CITY (TPF) — Overheard by our source on the street in a trattoria in the Trastevere district of Rome, just down the river from the Vatican.

“Holy crap, Andy! I haven’t read my Aquinas in a while, but looking through this thing,” he said, pointing to a printout of the birth control encyclical Humanae Vitae sitting on the table between them, “I’m hard-pressed to find an actual natural law argument in it.” The speaker was Cardinal Jann Lazzamotti, newly appointed member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican congregation responsible for promoting and safeguarding faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.

“When’s the last time you’ve read through it, Your Eminence?” asked his associate, auxiliary Bishop Andrew Blackwood.

“Probably when it came out, over 45 years ago,” replied the cardinal.

“Indeed,” said the bishop. “Be that as it may, you raise a good point, a point that was made more than once at the time of the encyclical’s release. You might recall the uproar it caused and the push-back against it, not only from theologians and the faithful, but even from the bishops. As I recall, fewer than half of the world’s bishop conferences received it without attempting to mitigate its message. The point you raise might also explain why 95% of the faithful have studiously ignored it.”

“It’s just a reiteration of previous papal teaching banning birth control, except for the Pope Pius XII carve-out for natural family planning,” he continued, picking up the encyclical and waving it in front of him. “There is no natural law argument in this, just declarations! And they don’t even make sense!”

“That is unfortunate for what is alleged to be a natural law argument,” replied the bishop, “which by its very nature is a creature of reason, and therefore must make sense. Your Eminence might reflect upon the possibility that the faithful intuitively figured this out a long time ago.”

The cardinal stared at the bishop for a few seconds, and then at the encyclical in his hand. After that, he flagged down the waiter and ordered another bottle of wine.