Mortara, Integralism, Liberalism, and Monastic Life

Over at the bloggingheads spinoff I have a conversation with Aryeh Cohen-Wade, in which we discuss the Mortara case, debates about liberalism and integralism among Catholics, and finally the monastic life.  The conversation was enjoyable, though I was a bit groggy from flu and flu medications.

We discussed an interesting essay by Nathan Shields at the Jewish magazine Mosaic,  liberal propaganda about the wars of religion, and Gelasian Dyarchy (I’m afraid I forgot to mention The Josiasthe integralist website for which I have written a number of pieces), and then a little about the monastic life and the practice of lectio divina.



20 thoughts on “Mortara, Integralism, Liberalism, and Monastic Life

  1. The Catholic maid did well by baptizing the boy in danger of death.

    But that did not give the Pius IX the right to take the boy from his family. Not “for his eternal salvation” or any other reason.

    The end does not justify the means.

    That is consequentialism and another sainted Pope, John Paul II condemned that error.

    The end does not justify the means even if you are Pius IX and you will later be a saint.

    The fact that he turned out as a priest and so forth does not change anything. One cannot argue post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Whose fault would it have been had he later discovered what Pius IX did and hated the Church because of it?

    I would think that as a thoughtful person he would have had to struggle with what was done to him. (And don’t tell me that my sense of conscience is anachronistic!)

    And wasn’t the action of the Pope in fact scandalous, and did it not in fact scandalize people?

    Scandalizing people harms the cause of salvation.
    Scandal is not simply “in the eye of the beholder,” but is something objective.

    Just as today when churchmen cover up sexual abuse they are giving scandal, and it damages the cause of salvation, even when they do it “for the good of the Church”.

    This case illustrates very well the problem with integralism, and shows us how integralism does not simply represent traditional Catholic thought, but something in need of correction.


    • The end can never justify intrinsically evil means. But taking a child away from his family is not a malum in se. This is evident from the fact that everyone agrees that there are circumstances when legitimate authority ought to take children from their parents. There can be disagreement about what those circumstances are, what kind of parental abuse justifies the authorities removing children, but hardly anyone would deny that there are some situations where taking away a child is justified. So the means are not intrinsically evil. The question therefore becomes: was the law of the Papal States correct in identifying the denial of a Christian upbringing to a baptized child as such a circumstance? I think Fr. Cessario makes a good case that it was. It is quite different in the example you cite of covering up the crime of sexual abuse, which is intrinsically evil, and therefore cannot be justified by the end.

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  2. Taking children from their parents is intrinsically wrong.

    Is it right or wrong to take children from their parents?

    It is wrong, intrinsically wrong. I could hardly think of a more evident violation of natural law.

    Just like killing people is intrinsically wrong.

    Still there is something known as the Just War doctrine. This does not mean that the Fifth Commandment doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean that killing people is morally neutral, only a physical evil, not a moral one.

    It means that there must be discernment of cases. (See Amoris Laetitia).

    The question is really this: Are there conceivable cases in which the rights of children must be defended by separating the children from the family situation in which those rights are being trampled on?

    St. Thomas tells us that acts receive their species from their objects.

    It is an undoubtedly good thing to protect the rights of children, and in some conceivable situations this can only be done by removing (at least temporarily) the child from the family.

    To separate children from the family is to attack the family and is immoral.

    But in some situations removing children from the family is when duly discerned a defense of family values which cannot be at the same time an attack against the family.

    A good act is done, a merely physical evil is tolerated, because it must be tolerated, because there is no alternative.

    In the case of Mortara his Jewish upbringing would have done him no injustice. Removing him from his family was unjustifiable.

    It is argued that baptism works a metaphysical change in the person by which he henceforth belongs to the Church and is subject to the rights and duties of the baptized.

    This metaphysical change must be recognized. It must be recognized as metaphysical, and not just as juridical. Baptism does not only give us rights and duties, it give us grace and the rights and duties flow from the grace.

    One must have faith in the efficacy of baptism. That is why Pope Pius IX should have confided in Providence and in the efficacy of baptism, and not resorted to violence against the family of Mortara, the violence of forcibly separating the boy from the family which had done him no harm and was threatening no harm.

    (I like disageeing with you Fathe Edmund, because I have a firm belief in your good-heartedness and civility. I want to mention that I liked your comment about being impressed by the anti-liberal argumentation of Elizabeth Bruenig. Where did this young lady get such a vibrant intellect from? Let us hope that she continues to make good use of it.)


    • Fr. Carl, it can never be right to do something intrinsically wrong. That’s what it means to be intrinsically wrong. Not wrong by excess or defect in a particular matter, but wrong just because of the kind of object that the act has. Just as it is never right to be unjust or imprudent or cowardly or intemperate or dishonest, so it is never right to do actions whose very object is an act of the kind with which those vices are concerned. If every killing were unjust, then killing would be intrinsically wrong. But the very fact that just war exists proves that there can be just killing, and therefore killing in general is not intrinsically wrong (although killing the innocent is). To tell a lie is a good example of something that is intrinsically wrong: it is always dishonest to lie. Similarly committing adultery is always both intemperate and unjust–Aristotle’s example, in fact: “Nor is there a good or bad way to go about such things—committing adultery, say, with the right woman, at the right time, or in the right way. Rather, doing [such things], simply speaking, is to miss the mark.”

      So the very fact that it can sometimes be just for an authority to remove a child from its parents’ custody proves that such an act is not intrinsically wrong. So again: the question is whether it is just or unjust in this particular case. You say Pope Pius should have more faith in the efficacy of Baptism. But I think that Fr. Cessario has a stronger argument: “Since baptism causes birth into new life in Christ, children require instruction about this form of new life.”


  3. [First Part: Paradoxes]

    Let us examine what you say here:

    “If every killing were unjust, then killing would be intrinsically wrong. But the very fact that just war exists proves that there can be just killing, and therefore killing in general is not intrinsically wrong (although killing the innocent is).”

    This is true if you take “killing in general” in a sense that neither you nor I affirm to be intrinsically wrong. It is a non-probematic assertion that does not clarify things.

    We are not talking about killing in general, but homicide, the killing of human beings. This is not generic but specific. The killing of human beings is not morally neutral but intrinsically wrong.

    I don’t believe that you would maintain that to kill a human being is not an intrinsically evil action, but only a morally neutral action.

    The Bible seems to use a word which can be (and yet not always is) translated by kill because the Bible speaks of Life in relation to Spirit, and therefore no one understands Thou shalt not kill as regarding generic killing, but as regarding homicide (=murder).

    Common sense gives us an intuitive understanding of what murder is, though it is hard to put into an exact formulation.

    The fact that killing (i.e. murder) is intrinsically evil, however, does not yet settle the whole question about just war and capital punishment; it is necessary to go more deeply into the matter.

    If there is such a thing as just war then there is a good killing of human beings (not just a good generic killing), but this does not prove that killing human beings is not intrinsically evil.

    First parallel case: If there are cases in which the state (or some third party) forcibly removes a child from its family justly in pursuance of the good of the child (that is in an act which in fact protects the good of the child, and whose moral species is thus determined by that object), then there is a forcible removal of children which is good.

    But this does not prove that it is not intrinsically evil to forcibly remove children from the family.

    Second parallel case: if there are cases where a tolerated unavoidable temporary continuance of sexual relations is the instrument of defending marital values (bonum fidei and bonum prolii) then there is a morally defendible sex outside of marriage, but that this does not mean that sex outside of marriage is not intrinsically wrong.

    In all three of these cases there is something that might be called an exception to the rule, but which when closely analyzed is not an exception to the rule but rather epikeia, an application of the rule.

    “Just war” is an application of the Fifth Commandment: one fights because killing is wrong, because peace is good and war is wrong, one fights because one hates the evil of violence, one fights because one is forced to defend one’s integrity and one’s life against the aggresion (the intrinsic evil) of violence, killing, and war.

    “Just war” is, in short, a paradox

    “Just kidnapping” similarly is a paradox.

    I don’t like the term “just kidnapping.” It could be misleading, because it gives the impression that kidnapping is just, whereas kidnapping is intrinsically evil.

    Still I make use of it to draw attention to the paradox. Kidnapping is intrinsically evil, for it offends against the twofold end of marriage by offending against the bonum prolis, one of the two ends of matrimony (the other the bonum fidei). It is an offense against the Sixth Commandment.

    But the Church does the same thing with the Just War Doctrine; it does not like the term. It uses it holding its nose. It puts it into quotes. The Church tells us that war is moral evil, not just physical evil. Only taking that into account, does one understand the “Just War” doctrine.

    “Just kidnapping” however is epikeia, an application of the Sixth Commandment: one is defending the bomum prolis, because one is defending the fluorishing of the children, paradoxically, by removing them from a family situation which attacks that fluorishing (by sexual or physcial abuse, for instance).

    Neither do I like the term “Just adultery.” In fact I think it stinks. I am not its inventor. Its inventor, as far as I can see is the anti-Franciscan movement, that accuses Pope Francis of defending adultery in Amoris Laetitia., whereas Pope defends adultery as little as the Just War doctrine defends murder.

    I use this term only paradoxically, holding my nose.

    But let us talk about this (bleah!!) “just adultery” thing.

    Is it not another case of epikeia?.

    It is not a matter of foreseeing the Sixth Commandment with an exception that weakens it. It is rather the argument that when an act applies the Sixth Commandment, defending the twofold end of matrimony, it is a praiseworthy act, because it cannot at the same time defend the ends of matrimony (something it does by presupposition) and attack them (something that acts in violation of the Sixth Commandment, by presupposition, do).

    See AL fn 329.

    [Appendix on the Difficulty of Formulating the Definition of Murder.]

    Pater Edmund argues that there is a good killing.

    But by the same argument there is a good killing of innocents, because in just war, there is sometimes the conscious killing of innocents.

    One can resolve this by observing that murder always involves the DIRECT killing of innocents either as an end or as a means.

    But then one can also go on to discuss what is meant by “direct”

    There can be cases imagined in which the direct killing of innocents becomes a necessary part of the realization of just war (justified by the principle of double effect).

    There can also be cases in which clever murderers, murder INDIRECTLY.

    The sanctions that the U.S. put on Iraq in the nineties caused the death of perhaps a half a million innocents.

    But the fact that it wasn’t direct killing doesn’t mean that those sanctions were not homicidal and morally evil.

    (Madeleine Albright in a “slip of the tongue” once said that those deaths “were worth it.” But wasn’t she in fact arguing that the end justifies the means?

    This shows the problematicity of all verbal formulations of definitions.

    A clever enough murderer could always concoct a murder that would confound one’s definition of murder..

    And unusual constrictive circumstances might exist in which one’s definition would condemn an innocent person of murder, who was in fact only engaged in self-defense.

    Still, men with common sense (for instance, jurrors) would still be able to see through the equiovocations of the clever murderer. They would penetrate the sense of the definition, and transcend the literalist interpretation.

    Conclusion: that of Amoris Laetitia: there must be discernment of cases.

    But if I were to ask you if the killing of innocents is morally wrong, yes or no, your answer, and my answer would most certainly be that the killing of innocents is indeed morally wrong and intrinsically wrong.

    Similarly if I were to ask you, simply, if killing human beings is morally wrong. The simple answer to that question is: Yes it is morally wrong to kill human beings.

    The Church (following natural law) teaches that it is morally wrong, gravely wrong, to kidnap children.)

    The Church teaches that it is morally wrong, intrinsically wrong, gravely wrong to commit adultery. Pope Francis teaches that too!


    • You aren’t presenting us with paradox; you are presenting us with contradiction. You want both to affirm and to deny that there are intrinsically evil acts. But your argument simply rests on overly vague specifications of actions, which might initially appear to be intrinsically evil, until one attends to their ambiguity. “Killing a human being” is too vague a description to adequately specify a moral action. This doesn’t mean that killing people is morally neutral in the sense that it would ever be morally neutral to kill someone. Killing a human being will always be either good or bad. Whether it is good or bad depends on what kind of killing we are talking about. It is bad in the case of killing an innocent person, good in the cases of just war and just punishment. The pacifists use the vagueness of “killing human beings” to conclude that war is murder. But is like the libertarians who exploit the vagueness of the expression “taking someone’s money” to argue that taxation is theft. The solution is not “paradox,” but achieving adequate specificity in the determination of moral objects. Killing innocents is intrinsically evil, nor does your example of double effect refute that point, because the whole point of double effect is that the evil effect is contrary to the intention of the agent. That is, the death of innocent bystanders who die when enemy soldiers are attacked (“collateral damage”) is precisely not the object of the action of attacking enemy soldiers. It could still be wrong for other reasons of course (disproportion), but it doesn’t fall under the universal negative precept against killing the innocent.

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  4. Rigorism itself gives me the opportunity to use the terminology which the rigorists use and turn it on its head. The rigorist hands such terminology to me, and I may use it–against them.

    The pacifist rigorist denies just war, and this gives me the opportunity to speak of Just War, and to paradoxically affirm that there can be just war.

    When I refer to Just War, Just Kidnapping and Just Adultery I am in a similar way making use of the opeming given by the rigorist interpretation to confute the rigorist interpretation, which reduces moral acts to things that can be judged according to merely exterior criteria, and affirming the Church’s rich teaching about acta humana, which are conscious, deliberate and free.

    It is a paradoxical affirmation because war is intrinsically evil, moral evil and not just physical evil. The Church affirms unceasingly that war is moral evil and not just physical evil. “Mai piu la guerra” (Paul VI) and if war were not intrinsically evil saying such things would be indulging in imprudent rhetoric.

    The same thing may be said in the parallel cases of Just Kidnapping and Just Adultery:

    I use all of these terms with repugnance. But I can use them, because rigorism justifies my using them. I can hold my nose and use them, because the rigorists condemns something as evil which is not evil. That gives me the right to turn around and tell them thay what they are condemning is not evil.

    Pope Francis in AL merely affirms the pastoral principles of the Good Shepherd who treats those in irregular situations with mercy and discerns cases. The rigorists malevolently (I am using that term in an objective sense, without judging and condemning) call this the justification of adultery.

    That gives us the right and duty to turn around and affirm Just Adultery, speaking paradoxically, just as the Church speaks paradoxically of Just War because pacifist rigorists condemn what they ought not condemn, because they judge according to the means and not according to the object, as St. Thomas has taught us.

    Here you have the justification of what the bishops of Buenos Aires, Malta and Germany have affirmed in their interpretation of AL

    Thus we use the terms Just War, Just Kidnapping and Just Adulterly improperly, but with justification, because we are rejecting that unjust rigorist interpretation of morality.

    We have the right and the duty to defend the morality of that which is unjustly condemned as immoral by the rigorists.

    We can and must make use of such paradoxical expressions to do so.

    But this does not allow me to practice the laxism of permitting a sainted Pope to kidnap a child from a family which was practicing no injustice.


      • No, that is not my position.

        My position is that acts really are acts, and not abstract essences. Acts are in the first place concrete things, not abstractions (i.e.mere essences).

        If acts are abstract essences, they cannot ever be intrinsically wrong..

        For St. Thomas moral acts are acts, not mere essences. They are acts of reason, rational acts.

        Thus when they are intrinsically irrational they are intrinsically wrong, they undercut themselves as it were; they are self-contradictory.

        If acts are reduced to being mere essences then they cannot be wrong in themselves (anti-rational) but their wrongness comes from a positive decree that comes from without.

        There is then nothing intrinsically wrong with murder, but God (or someone) decided that murder would be henceforth wrong. This positivism unleashes relativism into the heart of morality.

        This is all rooted in Thomistic metaphysics, where St. Thomas often refers to a phrase that comes from Aristotle: a thing is intelligible inasmuch as it is in act.

        Morality only makes profound sense when we see it as centered in acts, in the actus humanus, which conscious, deliberate and free..


        • “The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts.” – Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul II

          ^This is what people mean when they say that an act is “intrinsically evil”. It is an act such that no person is ever justified in doing it, in any circumstances or for any reason. Killing the innocent, committing adultery, and lying are examples of such acts. As Pater Edmund has been trying to show, taking children from their parents and killing (in itself) are *not* examples of things that are intrinsically immoral, but may be either right or wrong depending on circumstance and intention. If killing a human being was intrinsically evil, then there would not, and could not, be any just war, even conceptually. The idea would be nonsense, a game played with words, like discussing the hypothetical existence of a married bachelor. To say that killing a person is evil *in itself*, and then to assert that there is nevertheless such a thing as just war, is contradictory.


          • I should clarify that the “killing” I’m speaking of in the comment above is *not* killing parents or children, but killing in general. That may have been ambiguous in the original.


  5. When I speak of Just Adultery I am not speaking of adultery (something which is intrinsically wrong, but of that which rigorists call adultery and isn’t. I am using their terminology, speaking their language. This thing is a physical but nor moral evil (They say falsely that it is moral evil.) And when it is taken up as the means of a good act (as the necessary means to realize that good act) it becomes good by participation in that act.


    • Is “ckuss” actually a priest? This man who writes with so much temerity of “Just Adultery,” as though the term were analogous to “Just War”? If so, I ask that he please cease his scandalous posts and that no future posts along these lines be allowed. Thank you.


  6. I am not proposing adulltery, something which is intrinscially immoral. I am not saying that adultery can sometimes be just. I am saying that we sometimes use paradoxical expressions to describe paradoxical things.

    Do you really think that there is nothing paradoxical about “Just War”?

    Or do you hold that war is not sinful?

    Statements like ” killing human beings is intrinsically immoral” are not INEXACT.

    They are SYNTHETIC: i.e. they say the thing in a nutshell. What is said in a nutshell will later need to be unpacked, but that does not mean that it is inexact.

    Father Edmund tells us that killing innocents is immoral IS an EXACT statement. In a way, he is right, because it specifies the generality of “killing human beings” and in this sense it is exact.

    But that doesn’t mean that there are no more questions to ask about his formulation. And in this sense his objection to “killing human beings is immoral” is in conflict with his opinion that “killing innocents is immoral” is unobjectionable.

    If you think that saying “killing people is immoral” is inexact, and if you think that “kidnapping children is immoral” is inexact, why should you think that “sex outside of marriage” is EXACT?


    And this is true; it doesn’t have exceptions.

    But this is not due to a special and magical quality of the Sixth Commandment (which permits us to be rigorists with regard to the Sixth Commandment who need not look beyond merely external criteria and who thus do not need to practice the discernment of cases.)

    It is simply because of the fact that when natural law prohibits something, there are ipso facto no exceptions.

    “War is immoral” does not have exceptions either: Just War is not war. It is not war in the critical sense of the term. When judged according to merely exterior criteria it cannot be distinguished from war, but we are talking here about moral acts and not about merely external phenomona.

    If a norm is or can be well-expressed it has the universality proper to the norm. But that doesn’t mean that statements like “killing people is immoral” or “abortion is immoral” are ill-expressed simply because it is possible to ask what is meant by “killing people” or what is meant by “abortion.”

    The people who tell us that “war is immoral” is inexact do not tell us that “abortion is immoral” is inexact.

    Yet the two statements are quite parallel.

    Why is there this urge to question the immorality of war?

    The difference between the Catholics of former times and the integralists of today is that the Catholics always realized that there was something paradoxical about Christian militancy, whereas the integralists don’t see the paradox, and so they don’t think there is anything wrong with smashing skulls and kidnapping children from Jewish families. That is just obviously so, it is what the Church has always taught. No need for discernment! It can all be done at the level of concepts which are clear and distinct a priori

    And I have also made it clear that I am not approving adultery, In fact I have said that adultery is intrinsically evil, which means that it is never permissible.

    So I have a broader and more realistic concept ot intrinsically evil acts than my critics who don’t believe that kidnapping children is intrinsically evil and who don’t believe that war is intrinsically evil. I happen to believe that there really are Ten Commandments and that all of them should be taken seriously.

    All I am saying is that if one asks for discernment of cases in matters of war, and in matters of kidnapping, one should also see the need for discernment of cases with regard to irregular situations.

    I am for being even-handed and coherent in this. My opponents seem to think that when the Sixth Commandment is in question, that all you need is the rude merely physical criterion with which one can be as judgemental as one likes.

    I was thinking about another Pope: namely Benedict XVI, and his role in a German anti-aircraft unit during the Second World War where I think he was placed after his conscription because of his intelligence.

    Wouldn’t that be something like being in an irregular situation?

    We certainly wouldn’t want to say that he was fighting a just war.

    Some people might; I wouldn’t.

    So there he was, trying to shoot down allied planes, or at least playing along. And the fact is, that when the conditions became right, he deserted and allowed himself to be taken captive by the Allies.

    He and his family were always anti-nazi by conviction and on account of their Christian faith.

    But stil there he was fighting for Nazi Germany.

    A tolerant and normal thinking person will realize that these things happen.

    It happened to me too. There I was defending Father Maciel, tooth and nail, and then things started changing, slowly.

    It also happens that people find themselves in iirregular situations. So if we should not be judgemental with yount Joseph Ratzinger, then we should not be judgemental with people who find themselves in irregular situations.

    (And neither should we be judgemental about the kidnapping activities of Pio Nono; was he not stuck in the middle of the ossified Church politics of the Papal States, and didn’t he mean well?)

    But the rigorists will say no, the Sixth Commandement is different, there things are CLEAR.

    But don’t you think that young, reflective Joseph Ratzinger, passed through stages of reflection before his decision to desert. Don’t you think that his spiritual conversion process went ahead of his having the possibility to actuate his convictions outwardly? That he would have liked to have deserted before he could actually desert?. That he reached the point that he was spritually against what circumstances were still forcing him to do?

    And I don’t think I am being disrespectful by speaking of a conversion process in the young Joseph Ratzinger. Conversion processes are part and parcel of Christian life. I think it is more healthy to think of young Joseph Ratzinger as a normal Christian than as a superhuman being who with his computer-like brain had everything all figured out from the beginning. Life is messy, and it is messy for highly intelligent people like Joseph Ratzinger and people who are going to become saints, like Pius IX.

    So how far are we here from the situation of, let’s say a divorced and remarried woman, who is spiritually in a conversion process, who is spiritually all against adultery, but is not yet in a position to physically stop doing what she has spiritually stopped doing?

    How can we condemn the woman according to a merely physical criteria when we are not condemning the young Ratzinger according to a merely physical criterion?

    Was he not trying to shoot down allied planes? YES or NO?

    “Well, it’s things like that, that people DO in war. War is full of tragedies, we know that.”

    Exactly. But aren’t irregular sittuations full of tragic situations?

    “But if you start employing something other than the brute physical criterion with regard to irregular situations YOU ARE LETTING THE TOOTHPASTE OUT OF THE TUBE, and the next thing you know they will be attacking Humanae Vitae and God knows what else: the slippery slope.”

    But the fact is that Paul VI did not want HV to be interpreted according to merely outward criterion. He also was aware that morality is about acta humana and not about merely outward behavior.

    We do not condemn the young Joseph Ratzinger according to merely outward criteria, and therefore we should not condemn people in irregular situations according to merely outward criteria.

    The slippery slope argument is a tutiorist argument, and the Church has condemned tutiorism. Tutiorism perverts morality by replacing it with a perverted notion of safety. It is preferring “treaditional morality” to morality.

    Is it not inconsistant to use a jocular, flippant and laxist morality with regard to the doings of Popes (especially those whom we like and whom we can use in support of integralism) and then turn around and apply a rigorist morality with regard to groundlings who are in irregular situations, especially women, who are more easily pressurized into doing what we want?

    It is obviously inconsistent. But is this not the type of thing that integralism/rigorism does?

    Rigorism at the front door is always laxism out back.

    Here finally I want to recall the double form of consequentialism.

    a) the laxist consequentialism which permits something which is intrinsically wrong (like kidnapping) because of some good consequence being in view (the salvation of a soul, for instance)

    b) consequentialism of reversed sign, the rigorist consequentialism which obsesses about non-moral, merely physical evils (tabú) to such a point that it loses sight of authentic moral values (for instance the good of the children) and tramples on them, calling such an offense a merely collateral damage, a mere consequence of the (pseudo-) morality of staying clear of the tabú.


  7. Here is a selection of things that Father Edmund tells us in his essay “The Object of the Moral Act”

    1. Acts are determined by their objects.

    2. And just as the natures of things are that in virtue of which we can distinguish different kinds of things, so the nature of an action is that which enables us to say “this is an action of such a kind.”

    3. The goodness or evil of an acts is derived… from the goodness of their object.

    4. For acts have natures.

    5. Human acts, in the strict sense, are acts that proceed from reason and will. Such acts have special kind of goodness and evil: moral goodness or moral evil.

    6. The object of the moral act is what an acting person chooses to do. That is, it is the action itself considered as elicited or commanded by the will.

    7. The Church teaches that certain actions are intrinsically evil, merely because their objects are of themselves unable to be ordered to the end of human life.[5] Thus, committing adultery or lying are evil on account of their objects…

    8. Now, persons may well commit adultery or lie for the sake of good consequences which they expect to follow from those acts. For example, they might commit adultery for the sake of receiving shelter and support, or tell a lie in order to protect themselves from danger. But in the acts themselves they are actually destroying their happiness.

    9. Objects which are “materially” the same can be determined as different kinds of actions by the formal component. Thus, if a violent man cuts open a person’s chest for the sake of revenge, and a surgeon cuts open a person’s chest for the sake of saving life, they are performing different kinds of actions. “Cutting open a person’s chest” is a different moral object when reason finds “violent revenge” in it, than when reason finds “life-saving surgery” in it.

    10. Happiness is not some product of human activity to be produced by cunning design; it is the activities of human life itself, done in a truly human, a truly rational way.

    I haven’t added a word to this. I cut a tiny bit out, and I rearranged the order slightly. But all of this makes the point I am making, though Father Edmund might not recognize it.

    I agree with Father Edmund when he says that adultery can never be done so that “good consequences” might be derived. That is consequentialism; and I have clearly rejected it.

    What I am saying is that “Objects which are “materially” the same can be determined as different kinds of actions by the formal component.” This is what the rigorists don’t get.

    When St. Thomas says that acts receive their species from their object, he means their formal object; their material object is only their material object. I have referred to it as the means of the act.

    If one only has before one the material object the moral species is not yet determined. (This is what the rigorists deny; they think it is already determined in the material object.)

    Father Edmund undercuts his argument about the Mortara case when he says “Happiness is not some product of human activity to be produced by cunning design; it is the activities of human life itself, done in a truly human, a truly rational way.”

    I am not a great expert in Aristotle, but I believe that St. Thomas does not accept fully the eudaemonism of Aristotle but rather transforms it into something else.

    I would say it this way: though it is true that virtue produces happiness, it is not true that the consequence of happiness is the formal criterion of the morally good act (That is, once again consequentialism.)

    It is not true that happiness (the end of our acts) justifies the means.

    If it were true it would follow that one could violate the rights of the Mortara Family because young Mortara would then be brought to eternal bliss by such injustice.

    This divinely sanctioned Machiavellianism not only perverts the idea of justice, but also that of happiness.


    • You’re assuming that taking a child from its family is always unjust. Pater Edmund’s argument is that this is not the case, using your own categories. While it is materially the same as kidnapping, Pope Pius taking a child from the Mortara family is not, formally, the same act at all.


      • Why would the Mortara kidnapping not be kidnapping (but effectively the opposite of kidenapping, just as Just War is effectively the opposite of war)? The argument in favor of it not being kidnapping is not based on the object, but on the consequences or the intention. Formally it is kidnapping, because there is no injustice being redressed, their is no paradoxical undoing of kidnapping.


        • In each of the three cases we have been discussing, the paradoxical case gives us a type of antidote to the sin in question (war, kidnapping, adultery); we are speaking of a penitential act, which undoes the damage done by sin. The point of departure of the penitential act is the point of arrival of the original sin. The logic defending the innocence of thes paradoxical acts is this: The act which undoes a certain sin cannot be sinful.


          • Pope Pius’ action is not kidnapping because the authority of the Church over a baptized infant is greater than the authority of the parents over that infant in matters pertaining to her mission. The baptized belong to the Church in a more intimate way than they do their own parents, and the Church’s authority over them is of a higher kind than the authority of parents. Thus, the Pope’s action was justified, not because of its consequences or his intention, but because the Church has jurisdiction over the baptized: a jurisdiction which the Pope exercised for Edgardo’s eternal benefit.

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  8. Nonsense. The family is the Domestic Church and in matters like kidnapping the local Church ranks above Rome: if the Pope breaks into your house you tell him to get the heck out, and your war is a just war.

    Parents are the first educators of their children, especially in religious matters, “even” when they are Jewish. Edgardo’s parents had the right to raise Edgardo in the Jewish faith, and the mere accident of his Christian baptism, obviously does not abrogate that right.

    Being raised in the Jewish faith would have done him no injustice, but on the contrary.

    It seems that he turned out fine by God’s grace, but that is not the point.

    Those who defend this kidnapping really are not defending an exalted concept of Church and Baptism, but an absurd interpretation of the doctrine of One True Church which coheres with false notions about baptism and salvation which the Church has left, gratefully, behind her.

    If you scratch around long enough in this conception you will find anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is an archetypal form of gnosticism, about which one can read in the recent document of the CDF written by Archbishop Ladaria. Gnosticism always falsifies the incarnate nature of God’s salvific work in the Church and thereby the Incarnation of the Word.


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