Grace And Sin At The Dawn Of Moral Experience


Grace and Sin at the Dawn of Moral Experience

William H. Marshner


In a notorious article of the Prima Secundae, Aquinas claimed that the first moral decision of an unbaptized child could not result in a venial sin. If the decision was bad, the sin could only be mortal. On the other hand, if the decision was good, the same unbaptized child was freed from original sin. The common doctor’s argument for these claims wove together threads of psychology, moral theology, and eschatology, to fashion a controversial doctrine — elegant, but hard to defend, and in conflict with his own work on faith and justification. This paper will unravel the threads and propose a revised doctrine, less elegant but more plausible, and free of conflict.[1]
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Does Practical Reason Start with Good Or With Complete Good?


Does Practical Reason Start with Good or with Complete Good?


Faith and Reason
Vol. XXVI, No. 4
Winter, 2001
Christendom College

Aquinas said that the first precept of practical reason (FPPR) is that “good” is to be done and pursued, and evil avoided.[1] What did he mean by ‘good’?[2]
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Aquinas on the Evaluation of Human Actions



BY William H. Marshner

Christendom College
Front Royal, Virginia
[Reprinted from The Thomist, 59, 3, July, 1995]

Among the questions dealt with in the Prima Secundae are those of what moral goodness “is” and on what basis it is attributed to some human actions but denied of others. Aquinas’s answers are currently a matter of contention between the proportionalists and their critics, as is his answer to the question of how human actions are classified. Continue reading “Aquinas on the Evaluation of Human Actions”

Rahner’s Basic Stencil


Rahner’s Basic Stencil

W. H. Marshner

0.0 The following text is a hypothesis as to how the late Karl Rahner, S.J., applied in his theology a certain fixed pattern in construing the mysteries of the Faith. I call this pattern his stencil. Under my hypothesis, certain conceptual moves distinctive of his theology were made so as to put him in a position to apply the stencil. By its repeated applications he was able to impose upon the mysteries both a far-reaching isomorphism and a transcendental meaning. The first and basic application was as follows.

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Veritatis Splendor Outshines Dissenters


Veritatis Splendor Outshines Dissenters

W. H. Marshner

Human Life International
Volume II, Number 12
December 1993

Superlatives are rash, but I am going to risk two: Veritatis splendor is the most comprehensive teaching on morality in the entire history of the Holy See, and it is the most important papal encyclical since Vatican II.

My first superlative can be proved. The second is trickier. Richard McCormick, S.J., has told the readers of America that he is betting on the future. History will bury this encyclical, he thinks, as it has long since buried the warnings of Pius XII against “new theology.” Well, this writer is prepared to bet on the other side, and I’ll match any sum Fr. McCormick is prepared to put up. I’ll bet that in ten years the doctrine of John Paul II will be triumphant in the Church, and the “proportionalism” of McCormick will be well on its way to oblivion.

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Concept, Judgment, and Dogmatic Relativism


Concept, Judgment, and Dogmatic Relativism

W. H. Marshner


It is a central claim of Christianity that certain teachings formulated in the Mediterranean world two thousand years ago are divinely revealed. It is also a central claim that this revelation has been grasped and repeated ever since as the “same Gospel” — an achievement which heresies did not prevent and from which legitimate developments did not detract.

Traditionally, these two claims have been understood to demand the following explanation: the expressions used in formulating the original teachings have been understood within the main body of the Church with enough invariance, over all the intervening centuries and in widely different civilizations, to ensure that the “same doctrine” has been handed down.[1] Continue reading “Concept, Judgment, and Dogmatic Relativism”

A Tale Of Two Beatitudes


Reviews: A Tale of Two Beatitudes

Review of Russell Hittinger, A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory (Notre Dame, 1987), 232 pp.


Vol. XVI, No. 2
Summer 1990

The job of ethics is to tell us which actions are right and wrong, while the job of a “grounding” for ethics is to tell us why. For example, a “grounding” might show that right actions measure up to something, and the wrong ones don’t, and then tell us why this measure matters. Different kinds of grounding have been tried in the history of ethics; one is called “natural law” theory, and the three authors at issue in this review — Thomas Aquinas, Germain Grisez, and Russell Hittinger — all favor some version of it.
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The Counterfeits Of Transcendence


The Counterfeits of Transcendence

W. H. Marshner

Cultural Conservative Policy Insights
721 Second Street N.E., Washington, D.C 20002
(202) 546-3004
Institute for Cultural Conservatism Policy Insight Number Three
May 12, 1988

Cultural Conservative Policy Insights is published by the Institute for Cultural Conservatism, a division of The Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Inc, a non-profit tax-exempt educational organization, nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the view of the Institute for Cultural Conservatism or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.

In a previous policy insight, entitled “Cultural Conservatism and Transcendent Norms,” it was argued that a high understanding of right and wrong is implicit in the stance of cultural conservatives.

The present essay takes the argument a step further. It deals with the problems of moral relativism, because the relativist position is often based on ideas about culture. Challenging those ideas will expose the dangers which emerge when transcendence is misallocated to sheer “human consciousness,” or to the alleged future of our consciousness, and when transcendent right and wrong are thereby mismanaged. In the hands of cultural radicals, the mismanagement is common and multifarious.

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The Morality Of Political Action: Biblical Foundations



The Morality of Political Action:
Biblical Foundations

An edited transcript of 3 lectures held June 22,
June 29 and July 6, 1983 at the Free Congress
Research and Education Foundation

William H. Marshner
Enrique T. Rueda

The Free Congress Research and Education Foundation
Officers and Board Kathleen Teague, Chairman Dr. Charles Moser, Treasurer Margaret Johnson, Secretary Dr. Robert J. Billings Senator William L. Armstrong William Marshner Michelle Laxalt
Foundation Staff
Paul M. Weyrich, President
Connaught Marshner, Executive Vice President
Eric Licht, Vice President for Operations
Laurie Ramsey, Vice President for Development
John Grecco, Comptroller
The Morality of Political Action: Biblical Foundations
Copyright © 1984—The Free Congress Research and Education Foundation 721 Second Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
Library of Congress Catalog Card No: 84-82044
First Printing Price $4.00

The Free Congress Research and Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, research foundation, engaged in educational projects in two separate areas of concentration.
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On The Text Of The Syllabus



Charles Maurras

Translated by W. H. Marshner
Originally appeared in Action française, May 15, 1906

Who is killing you?
Who is leading you?

Among the various nonbelievers who joined together in the common effort of l’Action française, there were differences of opinion and tendency, to be sure. Yet their stance of seeking the public good, on the one hand, and the pains they took to avoid all preconceived ideas, on the other, have led them on (or led them back) little by little to a plain fact: here in this world (whether it be a question of things spiritual or things temporal, of the moral order or the material one) the views, interests, suggestions, and decisions of Catholicism match up point for point with the essential interests of the French nation and of the civilized world. I speak of interests understood as precisely as possible. I speak of Catholicism taken in strict definition. Continue reading “On The Text Of The Syllabus”

U.S. Supreme Court Approves Death Penalty For The Unborn




(Special to The Wanderer)
February 1, 1973

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a sweeping 7 to 2 decision, the Supreme Court struck down on January 22nd the abortion laws of Texas, Georgia, and all but four of the other 50 States. On the basis of a “right to privacy” allegedly guaranteed by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, the Court majority ruled that during the first three months of pregnancy, a woman and her doctor have the unconditional right to decide whether she will bear or abort her unborn child.

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