Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I am giving a weekly class on Laudato Si. Tonight it is Chapter III. I am amazed at how Pope Francis rehabilitates natural law as one of the foundations for Catholic morality in ALL THINGS!

THIS IS PERHAPS THE MOST POWERFUL STATEMENT I'VE HEARD FROM A POPE ON NATURAL LAW. It is in Chapter III but all chapters thus far have relied on the principle of natural law combined with Scripture and Tradition:

117: Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the STRUCTURES OF NATURE ITSELF. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities--to offer just a few examples--it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once human beings declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for "instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of NATURE.

My comments: The pope's clear teaching on natural law, which is available even to the non believer who rejects Scripture and Tradition, has ramifications for everything that goes against natural law, for all is connected.

When we set ourselves up as God and thus provoke a rebellion on the part of NATURE, what do we do?

1. We abuse the earth
2. We abuse sexuality and make what is unnatural in this regard "natural"
3. We abuse the meaning intrinsic in nature of what marriage is as designed by natural law
4. we abort babies 
5. Once human beings declare independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble!

The Holy Father directs his encyclical to everyone but especially those who are in control through their elected or appointed offices or who are dictatorial despots.

Think of what the Supreme Court has done to the unborn and now to marriage! Even the name Supreme competes with the only Supreme we must do homage: The Supreme Being! 

This is how natural law is treated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which Pope Francis uses explicitly in his encyclical:

1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:
The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.5
1955 The "divine and natural" law6 shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called "natural," not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:
Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.7 The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.8
1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:
For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.9
1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.
1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;10 it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:
Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface.11
1959 The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.
1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error."12 The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.



Anonymous said...

We do not hate Pope Francis, one can have the opinion that this papacy is flawed, by using the "hate" theme that is exactly what Liberals do when they cannot win the argument. So Father you are of the opinion that everything Francis has said and done in words and deeds is ok? Once again we Traditionlists are always the bad guys, funny we believe in Church teaching and the Magesteriun and are called haters, come on Father knock it off.

Lefebvrian said...

So, here's the problem with the quote at the top of your post, Father. In this quote, the pope articulates the idea that the worth of the person comes from the person's being part of nature. It is in proposing that the interconnectedness of man and nature results in the value of man that the pope has given the appearance of error.

The value of nature comes from the fact that God created it and provided it to man; whereas, the value of man comes from his being created in the image and likeness of God.

Through that lens, it is imperative to say that the pope is flatly wrong in saying that "[n]eglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself." In fact, the most striking sign of our disregard for reality is the failure to give due honor to God in justice -- that is, after all, the precise cause of and primary result of the Fall. A secondary aspect of the Fall (and consequently the current reality) is that we have within us the concupiscence that leads to an abuse of the created order in place of God, which manifests itself in things such as murder and lack of charity toward neighbor (not to mention lustful proclivities and other sinful tendencies).

While our failure to properly care for the earth that God has entrusted to us might be an indication of a lack of charity toward our neighbor (both in the present and the future), a disregard for environmental impact, in itself, is rather meaningless. Moreover, nature does not "cry" since nature cannot be properly anthropomorphized in that way. Our neighbor might cry out in response to some offense against him that involves an environmental impact, but these are not equivalent.

And finally, the pope is right to say that "everything is connected." Everything is connected by virtue of having been created by God. That does not mean, as he implies, that everything is of equal worth or importance. Man is infinitely above the creatures of the earth, which is why God has commanded us to order things appropriately. We are not "cooperating with God in the work of creation" in the sense that we are maintaining anything in existence by virtue of our connection with it. Instead, we are ordering the creation in a hierarchical way by subduing the creation and using its resources, which God has seen fit to create for us. In a certain sense, then, we rightly stand in the place of God over the natural world -- that is how God created the natural world and he gave us the charge to tend to these things.

I do not offer this brief analysis as a criticism of the pope's encyclical. I wish merely to point out that hyperbolically stating that this is the "most powerful statement that I've heard from a pope on natural law" indicates not the strength of the pope's writing but the lack of study on your part.

Anonymous said...

This is fine Father. Any pope should, at very least, as an absolute MINIMUM take a stand like this.

However, for many of us, the problem is that this is ALL we are getting: a minimum. As I mentioned in one of your earlier posts, Hitler and Stalin remain infamous because of their role in the extermination of an estimated 6 and 7 million people, respectively. However, we are on the brink of SIXTY MILLION legal abortions since 1973.

If we were involved in a war, just or unjust, where even a THOUSAND people might lose their lives, you can bet your last dollar that Francis and his last two predecessors would rail loudly against the injustice of such a war and constantly speak out against it whenever they were in public. Francis and his last two predecessors were vocal critics of the death penalty and often made public pleas to save the lives of hardened criminals from execution.

Yet if we are disappointed with the pope for not showing the same level of energy in defending the more than 57 million children who have been "choiced" out of existence, then we're the bad guys. We "hate" Pope Francis. We need to go to confession.

We don't hate Francis. We hate his selective sense of outrage.

Sorry Father. The Gulf War, the Holocaust, the Ukrainian Famine and many other wars and police action are MINOR LEAGUE, SMALL TIME EVENTS when compared with the huge scale of the abortion holocaust. We have EVERY RIGHT to demand that our moral leaders VOCALLY AND VIGOROUSLY defend this silent genocide that we have all grown far too comfortable with. When you look at Cardinal Dolan sitting down, smiling next to Governor Cuomo, it should sicken you. Sure Jesus loves Governor Cuomo, which is exactly why he would take the governor, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown , Joe Biden and all the other "Catholics" who support abortions and desecrate themselves with sacrilegious Communions week after week after week and take them to the woodshed.

Pope St. Gregory the Great once wrote: "“Reason opposes evil more effectively when anger ministers by her side.”

WE AREN'T THE PROBLEM. Our silent, nicey-nice leaders are the problem. How much longer are they going to keep getting cozy and comfortable with the enemies of the unborn? How many millions more have to die before we wake up and get mad? If you are not mad about this, then you definitely have problem.

Jusadbellum said...

I think it's a great thing for you to lead a discussion and study group on the Pope's writings. I loved Evangelii Gaudium and Laudatio Sii.

Too few people have actually taken the time to wade through his arguments.

I second the voices of others say - well, at least I don't hate Pope Francis. Dismay, disappointment, bewilderment, frustration, consternation, worry and even fear...yes. But hate?

As I've penned here before, He's our Holy Father, we owe him our prayers and obedience. But it's not a blind obedience. It's an informed obedience. He himself called laity to make some 'lio' ("raise hell"), and to 'dialogue' which means we get to response with counter-points.

If my captain is piloting the ship on a course that I think is risky and I say nothing despite feeling or knowing we're in trouble, am I being a good sailor? Now, if after I give my piece of mind he is set on course, then it's either be loyal or jump ship. Mutiny is really not an option if he's the captain (and has the keys of the kingdom!)

Clyde Catholic said...

Lefeb, very good theological statement...and right join the money. One of Calvin's major criticism's of the Church was her too friendly relationship with reason and natural theology. Touche'

Anonymous 2 said...

I understand the passion and share it but, folks, I hate to break it to you—the art of rhetoric is the ability to persuade. St. Paul knew this well and so became all things to all men. We can rant and rave and jump up and down about abortion and threaten divine wrath until we are blue in the face and it will change very few minds, if any. I mean, how successful has that approach been so far? It simply does not and cannot work with people who do not share our premises. Indeed, it may even be counterproductive as it provokes doubling down and the deployment of highly questionable rhetoric on the other side such as “war on women.” Pope Francis’s approach is much more—how should I put it?—Jesuitical, and has much better prospects of actually reaching people where they are.

I have said it before and I will say it again: What is our goal here—to preach to the choir or to get others to join the choir? If the former, rant and rave and jump up and down all you want; if the latter, follow Pope Francis.

TJM said...

Since the Holy Father allows the liberal media and Obama administration (but I repeat myself) to speak for him and spin his views to fit their political agenda, he only has himself to blame. His address to Congress was very weak, almost like he was afraid to mention the abortion or gay marriage word. With the evil national media, the Pope should have been very explicit and followed the example of St. John Chrysostom who really knew how to speak truth to power. He should have let Congress and Obama have it so his words couldn't be twisted into knots. Sorry, Father, I'm not buying.

Anonymous said...


As I've said on other posts, and recently, I'm fine wit using rhetoric to convince other people to join the choir. I'm not fine with changing the rhetoric to the degree that you mislead these people, either intentionally, knowingly, negligently, or recklessly, into thinking they're joining a rock group.

And given the abortion statistics, your "dialogue" approach hasn't exactly achieved stunning success either in the past 40 years.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:

I am the first anonymous who is a bit angry.

I have to agree with the third anonymous: We've been playing nice since 1973 and the results are obvious: Pro abortion "Catholics" are more emboldened than ever and the pro-abortion agenda becomes more and more widely accepted and more and more mainstream.

Our bishops have a tool in canon law and they're afraid to use it. I'm not half as mad at the pro-abortion pols who exploit our weak bishop as I am at the bishops themselves.

We've done the nicey-nice dance. It doesn't work. This is a war. When it's all over, I pray that we aren't charged with dereliction of duty. I can name several high-ranking people in the Church who fit that charge.

But I won't. That wouldn't be nice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2, what if those we get to join the choir refuse to sing the tune and insist we change the songs?

TJM said...

I agree with Anonymous 2 about our supine bishops. I think an argument can be made that they have excommunicated themselves by not vigorously defending life by tossing fake catholic pols out of the Church. They are materially cooperating with evil through their silence. I guess their tax exempt status is more important to them than the lives of the unborn.

Clyde Catholic said...

TJM, I don't think it was Anon 2 talking about weak Bishops. He generally has no problem with a weak Church, weak Bishops, or a weak Pope. Re-read the posts.

Anonymous 2 said...

TJM: I did not make the comment about supine bishops. One of the undesignated Anonymice did. =)

Undesignated Anonymous: I was not referring to dialogue but to the natural law approach in Laudato Si.

Other Undesignated Anonymous (or perhaps the same one, who can tell): The choir to which I was referring in this instance is the choir opposed to abortion.

Mark Thomas said...

I don't whether Father McDonald will allow me to post the following link to his blog.

That is a link to Vox Cantoris's blog. I believe that the man who runs that blog has posted to Father's blog.

Last month on Vox's blog, it was suggested that Pope Francis had not granted sufficient attention to abortion, which is an abominable crime. I then provided Vox several links to major news media stories that reported Pope Francis' numerous direct condemnations of abortion.

Anybody who claims that Pope Francis has not displayed considerable outrage against abortion is wrong. Father McDonald-permitting, anybody who uses that link will find that Pope Francis has, in loud and clear fashion, issued numerous condemnations of abortion.

America Magazine in September 2013 A.D. published an interview with His Holiness Pope Francis. In that interview, Pope Francis acknowledged that he had been "reprimanded" for his having spoken infrequently about abortion.

America Magazine first published that interview online.

On its Web site, following the release of the interview, which many people had spun as proof of Pope Francis' "soft" attitude on abortion, The National Abortion Rights Action League said "Thank You" to Pope Francis.

The following day, Pope Francis fooled them all when he issued in Rome a powerful condemnation of abortion. From that date to today, His Holiness Pope Francis has time and again condemned abortion.

No matter how anybody attempts to downplay the following, Pope Francis, during his address last week to our bishops, condemned abortion by name.

The problem is that there simply isn't any way for Pope Francis to please his critics. Even when he does that which they desire, the Holy Father's critics continue to attack him.

The last time that I witnessed such a systematic, vicious, and unrelenting against the Vicar of Christ was in 1968 A.D. Liberals within and without the Church displayed endless outrage at Pope Venerable Paul VI in regard to Humanae Vitae.

Today, many "Traditionalists" are determined 24/7, via the Internet in particular, to bash and trash Pope Francis. They flat-out distort daily Pope Francis' words and actions. How sad.


Mark Thomas

TJM said...

The national media is evil and would have been a perfect fit in Hitler's Germany

Anonymous said...

I agree with Clyde Catholic that Lefevbrian makes a fine theological statement, worth repeating: "The value of nature comes from the fact that God created it and provided it to man; whereas, the value of man comes from his being created in the image and likeness of God."

Also, I think there are far more serious issues that the Pope could and should be focusing on in an encyclical.


Anonymous said...

Mark Thomas states: "America Magazine in September 2013 A.D. published an interview with His Holiness Pope Francis. In that interview, Pope Francis acknowledged that he had been "reprimanded" for his having spoken infrequently about abortion."

It is no doubt through commentators like Rorate Caeli, Vox Cantoris and others highlighting that fact that he had spoken infrequently about abortion that has caused him to find a bit more voice on the issue.

May the Traditional blogs keep up the good work that Pope Francis may become as fearless as St John Paul II The Great in proclaiming the right to life and other moral issues. It's interesting to note that no blogs had to point anything like that out to him.


Anonymous 2 said...

Mark Thomas:

Thank you for your spirited defense of our Holy Father, with which I completely agree.

You wrote that “The problem is that there simply isn't any way for Pope Francis to please his critics. Even when he does that which they desire, the Holy Father's critics continue to attack him.” Exactly so! And I would add “and claim the credit for his doing what they desire” as Anon. Jan’s latest post illustrates. In the view of his critics, the problem is not only, or perhaps even not so much, that Pope Francis had not spoken out enough about abortion and gay marriage; the problem is that he dared to speak out about other matters such as the environment and the economy (never mind that Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XIV spoke out about those things too; for some reason they get a pass, or perhaps what they said about such matters was just ignored by said Traditionalists).

I guess Popes have to pass the Traditionalists’ litmus test to be acceptable to them, just as previous Popes had to pass the Progressives’ litmus test to be acceptable to_ them_. This is not how I (or evidently you and a few other regular contributors to this Blog) understand Catholicism to work. My understanding of the appropriate role of the laity is to try to be the Church in the world, not thought police whose job it is to scrutinize and approve or disapprove every word uttered by the Pope.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. I meant Pope Benedict XVI not XIV of course.

George said...


"The value of nature comes from the fact that God created it and provided it to man; whereas, the value of man comes from his being created in the image and likeness of God."

True. In the Genesis account, we see that all that God created was for the benefit of man-to sustain him in his existence. The earth and all it contains was created for man to inhabit and sustain himself.

"That does not mean, as he implies, that everything is of equal worth or importance"

Is the Holy Father implying that? Or does it just seem he is implying that? I need to finish reading the Encyclical. At this point I can't agree with what you are saying.

" We are not 'cooperating with God in the work of creation' in the sense that we are maintaining anything in existence by virtue of our connection with it."

No, we do not maintain anything in existence by virtue of our connection with it. Then again, what is the Pope saying with that statement? I need to have a better understanding of what he is conveying. We do co-operate in the work of God's creation by our role in the generation of new human life, and we do help to maintain and sustain that new life in existence until it can maintain and sustain itself. Human beings do have a connection with each other and to God, since we have been created in the image and likeness of our Divine Creator.