W. H. MARSHNER
For one who has learned a great deal from Grisez’s work over the years, it is an honor to be asked to comment on one of his papers. What is more (since wisdom is better than honor), I have found it rewarding to comment on a paper that covers the whole problem of human action: how it relates to volition, how it comes under norms, how it aims at personal fulfillment, and how it can achieve (when elevated by the love of God) a supernatural Kingdom. Truly systematic treatments of this are rare, even over the long haul of Church history. There was Augustine’s; then there was Aquinas’s (each tinkered with by countless subsequent disciples); now there is Grisez’s.
Continue reading “Implausible Diagnosis: A Response To Germain Grisez”
Nature, Sex, and Person in Thomistic Thought
WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
Certain Catholic feminists of philosophical bent have criticized a strand of Catholic thought as positing in effect two natures of human beings. Sr. Mary Aquin O’Neill, for example, says the Catholic view of complementarity between the sexes has invented a male nature and a female nature. Mary J. Buckley repeats this charge. Both accuse the tradition of arriving at this error by “extrapolating meanings from the male and female bodies” and thus mistakenly attributing culturally-based gender differentiations to human nature itself. Sr. O’Neill seems to prefer an androgynous view of human capability and a biological view of what is “natural” to us. Mary Buckley demands that all talk of “constant” or “fixed” human nature be replaced by a “transformative model,” as she calls it, in which the core of humanity is sheer freedom. The aim of this paper is to show that the Thomistic account of human nature does not commit the mistake the feminist philosophers allege and avoids both of the disastrous (and conflicting) reductionisms into which they fall. Man qua man is one nature, for St. Thomas, not two; yet this one nature is neither pure biology nor pure freedom.
Among Catholics who follow the Church’s teaching, it is well accepted that a couple practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP) with an intention of a certain kind is doing a morally good act, quite different from contracepting. It is also accepted that a couple practicing NFP with an intention of a different kind is doing a morally wrong act, similar to contracepting. These two intentions — how exactly do they differ?
Continue reading “Can A Couple Practicing NFP Be Practicing Contraception?”
AQUINAS ON THE EVALUATION OF HUMAN ACTIONS
BY William H. Marshner
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”
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. Continue reading “Concept, Judgment, and Dogmatic Relativism”
The Twenty four Thomistic Theses
Newly translated and annotated by
W. H. Marshner
Decree of the Sacred Congregation for Studies
July 27, 1914
1. Act and potency divide the set of beings in such a way that anything which “is” has to be either (1) pure act or else (2) a combination of potency and act, having these as the primordial factors within it.
2. Since anything’s “act” is a completion it has, act is limited only by a potency which is the thing’s capacity for being completed. Hence, in any order of being where there is a “pure act,” the pure act is unlimited and unique; but wherever an act is limited and has more than one instance, it is occurring in a genuine composition with potency.
Continue reading “Translation of The Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses”
Review of Russell Hittinger, A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory (Notre Dame, 1987), 232 pp.
By W. H. MARSHNER
FAITH AND REASON
Vol. XVI, No. 2
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.
Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Beatitudes”
Every theory of doctrinal development makes some appeal to the concept of implicit information. But no theologian or Church historian has bothered to explore this concept philosophically with the contemporary tools for doing so. I refer to tools such as an up-to-date philosophy of language and an up-to-date logic of significance and context. It was to fill this lack that “On the Implicit” was written in the mid-1980s. Continue reading “On The Implicit”
General Analysis of ‘Object’ in Thomistic Usage
Teresius Zielinski, O. C. D.
Translated by W. H. Marshner
‘An object’ is defined as ‘that with which a faculty or habit deals by way of the act(s) proper to that faculty or habit’. Since faculties or habits, via their acts, may relate to an object in different ways, different sorts of objects and different roles of an object need to be discussed., 
Mary: Redemption and Preservation
WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
FAITH AND REASON
Vol. VII, No. 2
The following analysis of Mary’s redemption attempts to clarify the Catholic understanding of how it can be said that a person conceived without original sin can be said to be redeemed at all. The importance of William Marshner’s technical treatment of this traditionally vexing question, including his use of modal logic, will be apparent to those who regard it as a chief function of theologians to defend and advance the Faith by precisely answering as many potentially devastating questions as possible. Thus, Marshner proceeds to eliminate false understanding of Mary’s redemption so that a proper understanding might leave the central doctrines of the Church less open to attack.
A CRITIQUE OF CURRENT TRIBUNAL PRACTICE AND THE PROPOSED REVISION OF CANON LAW
WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
© Christendom Educational Corporation 1978
Crossroads Books is an imprint of the Christendom College Press designed to offer scholarly insights on current Catholic issues in a format accessible to a broad spectrum of readers.
William H. Marshner brings a unique background to his authorship of the first of the Crossroads booklets. Formerly a contributing editor to The Wanderer and an assistant editor of Triumph magazine, Mr. Marshner has long experience in the apostolate of the Catholic Press.
A Ph.D. candidate in Languages at Yale University and in Theology at the University of Dallas, Mr. Marshner is completing his dissertation on Cardinal Newman’s notion of doctrinal development. He is also professor and acting chairman in Theology at Christendom College.
Introduction, Rev. Mark A. Pilon
Definition of Marriage
The incredible increase in the numbers of marriage annulments in the churches of Holland, Canada and our own United States is rapidly becoming one of the greatest scandals in recent Church history, and yet the true proportions of this problem are still relatively unknown to many American Catholics. In 1976 alone over 15,000 annulments were declared in this country, and that number can be expected to greatly increase in the years ahead, given the present orientation of growing numbers of our tribunal officials.
Continue reading “Annulment Or Divorce”
Membership in the Church: Fundamental Questions
by WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
FAITH AND REASON
Vol. 2, No. 3
A pressing question before the Church today is precisely “Who is a member?” The importance of this matter, which seems on the surface to be rather obvious, stems from two scandalous but simple facts. First, the division of Christianity into competing sects has created the difficulty of defining the relationship of these sects to the true Church. Second, modern Catholics who deny even the most basic of Church teachings often confuse the issue by refusing to admit that they have left the Church. It is in this context, then, that F&R publishes the following rigorous, careful and technical treatment of Church membership by William H. Marshner. The argument demands and deserves careful reading and rereading with full attention to the notes. It is true that the casual reader will find certain traditional attitudes toward Church membership reinforced by the author’s conclusions. But the painstaking student of this article will find much more, for presented here are basic distinctions which go far toward ending the confusion about who is a member in good standing of the Catholic Church and who, in fact, is not.
Continue reading “Membership In The Church: Fundamental Questions”
Towards a General Definition of ‘Ideology’
W. H. Marshner
Any set of normative or programmatic beliefs about social matters is likely to be called an “ideology” in a neutral sense of the word. For in this sense, ‘ideology’ merely designates the ideas advanced by some social movement. With this sense of the term we have nothing more to do. Rather, we must try to define the stronger and pejorative sense in which some social programmes are called “ideologies” and some are not.
Continue reading “Towards A General Definition Of ‘Ideology’”
Principles Of Sufficient Reason: Selected Questions
In graduate school at the University of Dallas, I was exposed to a school of phenomenologists who defend the principles of sufficient reason. This famous invention of Leibniz is an all-purpose replacement for the causal principles known and explored in the Middle Ages. It guarantees that every proposition, if true, and every fact has a sufficient reason why it is so and not otherwise. The crucial question is whether free choice is compatible with this “principle.” This essay explores several versions of it and argues that most of them are, indeed, incompatible with liberty and with several theological truths emphasized in the Thomist tradition. Continue reading “Principles Of Sufficient Reason: Selected Questions”
By W.H. MARSHNER
October 3, 1974
This paper attempts a correlation between biological data and philosophical terminology with respect to the earliest stages of human embryonic development. The purpose is to assist people active in the right-to-life (RTL) movement to meet certain philosophical objections, ancient and modern, to their position. It is not claimed that RTL should incorporate this or any other philosophical correlation into its public argumentation (which is necessarily scientific in character); it is merely argued that the present correlation will protect the movement’s public argumentation from ambush by other philosophical positions, such as those of Dr. James Diamond or Fr. Joseph Donceel.