Thursday, May 6, 2010

Satanic Confusion

Satan—the loud voice of the world compared to the still small voice of Christ—has always had an easy time confusing humans about the truth, even when it is so clearly right in front of them, and in this time of massive information bouncing around the world at the speed of light, his task is often that much easier.

All the more reason for daily spiritual practice that involves prayer, communion, contemplation, or study that keeps us connected to the ways of the Church founded by the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Here is a marvelous book—The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction, by J. Budziszewski, to add to your study time.

Professor Budziszewski is one of the very few Catholic thinkers who understand the traditional teaching of the Church supporting capital punishment, and one chapter of his book is devoted to that.

His ideas served as a valuable reference in our book, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support.

We are very fortunate that the preface to his book is posted to the website of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

An excerpt.

“This book is about natural law – about the foundational principles of good and evil inscribed in created human nature. Although it reflects a single point of view, no one could fail to notice that it was put together from essays written at different times. For that reason, it may be helpful to say something about how the chapters fit together. To summarize them would be too much like giving away the ending of a novel. I do think that I ought to "motivate" them. Before even that, the design of the book should be explained, since I may seem to have given birth to Siamese twins – a short book about ethics, joined at the hip with another short book about politics. No, the two parts do make a single book.

“One excuse for connecting them is that the study of politics is a branch of the study of ethics. This old claim strikes most people as impractical and unrealistic, not to say bizarre. On the contrary, it is utterly hardheaded. What could be more impractical and unrealistic than to imagine that a bad man can be a great statesman, or that a people can have a wholly different government than it deserves?1 We may look at the matter from another side too. Ethics is the study of the good, and even a corrupt government rests on some corrupt idea of the good – for example, that the good is gaining power, amassing wealth, or protecting the position of the privileged. The politics of an age may rest on a crumbling foundation derived from a mistaken ethics, but it will have an ethical foundation.

“The second excuse for the structure of the book is that it offers a connecting term between its two parts: the concept of law. The foundational principles of good and evil are the natural or moral law; of regime design, constitutional law; and of day-to-day legislative enactment, ordinary law. Some people will consider this emphasis a good and timely thing. After all, despite what Pope Benedict XVI has aptly called the dictatorship of relativism, the natural law tradition is enjoying a certain renewal and refreshment. Other people will consider it a bad and untimely thing. I cannot help that; with two short exceptions, which I take up shortly, the rest of my excuse must be the rest of the book. But this brings us back to the chapters. …

“I anticipate that some readers of the sixth chapter may be surprised by the seventh, "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice." A fashion on my own side of the question of human personhood is to say that it is always wrong to take life – that abortion, capital punishment, just war, and presumably self-defense are each wrong, always wrong, and wrong for all the same reasons. Against this "seamless garment" view, I defend the older tradition that the evil of murder lies in taking innocent life. Abortion, therefore, is different than the others. In particular, capital punishment has a necessary though limited place – not despite the sacredness of life, but because of it. Some thinkers in my own communion mistakenly plead the authority of the Church against this view. On the contrary, the papal magisterium has lately emphasized not that capital punishment is always wrong, but that under rightly ordered institutions it should be rare. And surely this teaching is true. Its much-neglected corollary is the importance of seeing to it that our institutions are ordered rightly. Presently, the various parts of the system of justice work at cross-purposes.”