Christendom Press presents the 10th Annual Summer Apologetics Institute
The Wisdom of Saint Thomas: The Perennial Philosophy for the Third Millenium
Copyright 1996 Christendom Educational Corporation
W. H. Marshner
(A) The sense of ‘beatitudo’.
The first job is to determine what ‘beatitudo’ meant simply as a matter of ordinary language, reserving til later the question of its learned definitions (rationes). There are three options: happiness, well-being, and fulfillment. To see which option is best, one needs to consider the following facts.
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.
Continue reading “Grace And Sin At The Dawn Of Moral Experience”
Does Practical Reason Start with Good or with Complete Good?
W. H. MARSHNER
Faith and Reason
Vol. XXVI, No. 4
Aquinas said that the first precept of practical reason (FPPR) is that “good” is to be done and pursued, and evil avoided. What did he mean by ‘good’?
Continue reading “Does Practical Reason Start with Good Or With Complete Good?”
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”
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”
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., 
By WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
This paper is devoted to refuting the so-called debitum hypotheticum or conditionatum. In general, a debitum is expressed by the claim that Mary, thanks to her connexion with Adam, was under a necessity to contract original sin; the debitum conditionatum is expressed by the claim that, thanks to the same necessity, she would have contracted original sin, if one or another condition had been fulfilled (e.g., if God had not preserved her).
Continue reading “A Critique Of Marian Counterfactual Formulae: A Report Of Results”
A LOGICIAN’S REFLECTIONS ON THE DEBITUM CONTRAHENDI PECCATUM
By WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
Reprinted from MARIAN STUDIES (1978)
The long-standing theological debate over whether Our Blessed Mother can be said to have had a debitum peccati begins and ends, it seems, with both sides admitting the truth of the following contrary-to-fact condition:
(A) If she had not been preserved, Mary would have contracted original sin.
The necessity of affirming this or similar counterfactuals is usually said to lie in the Church’s doctrine that Our Lady’s redemption was a “preservative” redemption. It is asked, what can “preservative” mean, if an assertion like (A) is not true?
Continue reading “A Logician’s Reflections On The Debitum Contrahendi Peccatum”
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”
Liberty And Social Order
By W. H. MARSHNER
A medical analogy aptly explains the laity’s role in social action. The idea is that the present social order is diseased and that Christian social action is a medicine, whose effect, if God wills it, will be social health.
The disease is probably the least problematic part of this analogy. Its symptoms are the assault upon the unborn, the assault upon the sanctity of marriage, the corruption of children through public education, the extinction of individual and corporate liberties through centralized and bureaucratic government—an enormous range of social ills which collectively constitute the disease of the social order. But, the analogy goes on, there is to this disease a contrary which is called health.