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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