Thomas Pink on “official theology” (Updated)
At the National Catholic Register, Edward
Pentin recently interviewed philosopher Thomas Pink on the subject of the
failure of the Church’s leaders to teach and defend her doctrines. (The interview is in two parts, here
and here.) Pink is interesting and insightful as always,
and in general I agree with the substance of his analysis. However, it seems to me that the way he
expresses his main point is potentially misleading and could needlessly open him
up to unfair criticism.
Pink draws a
distinction between the “magisterial teaching” of the Church and what he calls
the “official theology” of churchmen.
The problem with many current leaders in the Church, in Pink’s view, is
that their official theology effectively smothers magisterial teaching without
explicitly contradicting it. Explaining
what he means by “official theology,” he says:
They are statements that are official
– made by officeholders in their public role – but they simply explain what the
magisterial teaching means, or what the Church’s policies and practices are,
without those statements of themselves imposing any obligation on our part to
quote. Now, it’s this expression
“official theology” and Pink’s gloss on it here that I find problematic. Again, I don’t disagree with the substance of
what Pink is saying. I think his main
point is absolutely correct and important.
But the literal meaning of the expression “official theology” might lead
an unsympathetic reader wrongly to accuse Pink of drawing a distinction without
a difference, with a view to rationalizing a rejection of doctrines he doesn’t
what Pink calls “magisterial teaching” is also theological in content, and it is put forward officially insofar as it is to be found in authoritative documents
such as the decrees of Church councils, papal encyclicals, instructions issued
by the CDF, and so forth. So isn’t magisterial
teaching itself a kind of “official theology”?
Furthermore, doesn’t the Church tell us that it is the job of popes and
bishops to “explain what the magisterial teaching means,” and that the faithful
are obliged to give religious submission of intellect and will to this teaching
(even if, as
I have explained elsewhere, the Church allows that there can be
circumstances in which such submission may legitimately be withheld)? So, when churchmen acting “in their public
role” rather than as private theologians “simply explain what the magisterial
teaching means, or what the Church’s
policies and practices are” isn’t there at least a presumption that Catholics do have an “obligation… to believe them”?
if you go just by the literal meaning of the expression “official theology” and
the explanatory remark from Pink quoted above, it may seem that he hasn’t made
it clear either how this is distinct from “magisterial teaching,” or why
Catholics are not obligated to accept the former despite being obligated to
accept the latter.
when you look at the specific examples
Pink discusses, his meaning is clear.
For instance, he says:
Official theology often changes over
time, and not in a constant direction. The
to-ing and fro-ing over unbaptised children [the doctrine on limbo] shows that
the official theology of one time can contradict the official theology of
another time. And if past official
theology of the Church can be mistaken, so too can modern official
quote. Another example Pink discusses at
greater length is Jacques Maritain’s political theology of democratic
pluralism, which has never been magisterial teaching but has nevertheless had
an enormous influence on how contemporary Catholic theologians think about
matters of Church and state. An example
Pink does not give but which is another instance of the sort of thing he has in
mind is Hans
Urs von Balthasar’s view that there is a realistic hope that all
human beings will be saved.
examples could be given, but these three – the
rejection of the idea of limbo, the affirmation of the pluralistic non-confessional
state as a positive good, and the “empty hell” hypothesis – provide a representative
sample. Here are three observations about
them. First, and again, none of these
ideas is magisterial teaching, and no Catholic is obligated to agree with them.
these ideas are nevertheless widespread even among contemporary Catholic
churchmen and theologians who have reputations for orthodoxy, and they reflect
more general theological tendencies that are even more widespread. For example, Maritain’s position reflects the
influence of modern personalist philosophy, and personalism was also a major
influence on the thinking of Pope St. John Paul II. Von Balthasar was a major figure within the nouvelle théologie or resourcement movement
in twentieth-century Catholic theology, and Pope Benedict XVI was another major
figure in that movement. No Catholic is
obligated to endorse either personalism or the nouvelle théologie, but the fact that two popes widely admired among
faithful Catholics were influenced by these movements has given them enormous
prestige and influence within Catholicism.
As I say, I
think it would be misleading to call either these general movements or the
specific theological ideas referred to parts of an “official theology.” But they might plausibly be regarded as parts
of a “dominant theology” or a “prevailing theology,” which I think would be
better labels than the one Pink uses.
observation is that these three specific examples of prevailing theological
ideas – again, the rejection of limbo, the affirmation of the non-confessional
state as a positive good, and the “empty hell” hypothesis – all reflect a kind
of optimism about the human condition that is novel, and indeed foreign
to the Catholic tradition.
Magisterial Catholic teaching holds that without baptism we cannot be
cleansed of the stain of original sin, and without sacramental confession we
cannot be cleansed of the stain of mortal sin committed after baptism. Thus, without baptism and confession we
cannot be saved. Hence the urgency of
the Great Commission. Now, it is true
that there are qualifications to be made to these doctrines, having to do with the
notions of baptism of desire, invincible ignorance, and the like. But to think that this makes the need for
baptism and confession less urgent is somewhat like thinking that a diagnosis
of cancer needn’t prompt urgent action, since there are rare cases where
cancers disappear without treatment; or like thinking that to prepare to have a
large family and put the kids through college, it will suffice to buy a few
rejection of limbo is hard to square with the urgency of infant baptism, and
the “empty hell” hypothesis is hard to square with the urgency of conversion,
of repentance, and of confession of mortal sin.
Celebration of the pluralistic non-confessional state as a positive good
(as opposed to a necessary evil) is also in tension with this urgency. If conversion is an urgent matter, then it
can hardly fail to be an urgent matter to dispel theological error. But if religious pluralism is a positively
good thing, then it is hard to see how dispelling theological error can be an
urgent matter, and thus hard to see how conversion can be an urgent matter
either. It is no surprise that
latitudinarianism in theology and pluralism as a political ideal tend to go
hand in hand. (The connection goes back
to the beginning of the liberal tradition, as I discuss in my
book on John Locke.)
theological opinions are often formulated in a way that attempts to make them
consistent with the letter of Catholic magisterial teaching. That is, for example, why “empty hell”
theorists don’t deny either that hell exists or that some people might in
theory end up there, but confine themselves to arguing that there is at least
good reason to think that perhaps few if any in fact do. I think these attempts at harmonization with
past teaching are dubious at best. (Pink
has written much on the problems facing attempts to harmonize the affirmation
of the non-confessional state as a positive good with traditional Catholic
teaching, most recently at Public Discourse. See the articles linked to above for
discussion of limbo and the “empty hell” hypothesis.) But even if these novel theories could be
made consistent with the letter of traditional Catholic doctrine, they are
manifestly in conflict with its spirit.
point is that it is precisely because such theological opinions are at the very
least in conflict with the spirit of traditional Catholic teaching that many churchmen
beholden to these opinions do not proclaim and defend that teaching. Why bother preaching the urgent need for
conversion and baptism, or the urgency of repenting of and confessing mortal
sins (such as the variety of sexual sins that are today not only widely
indulged in but widely celebrated), if most people are going to be saved anyway? Especially when doing so will only bring down
upon you the opprobrium of the dominant secular liberal culture?
In this way,
the “official theology” (or better, the “prevailing theology” or “dominant
theology”) makes magisterial teaching of no effect, without explicitly denying
it. And part of the remedy, as Pink goes
on to argue, is for Catholic scholars to criticize
this prevailing theology – to show how it not only differs from actual
magisterial teaching, but either explicitly or at least implicitly and in
practice conflicts with it. To carry out
such criticism is in no way to be disloyal to the Church or her leaders. On the contrary, it is precisely to defend
the Church’s magisterial teaching and to assist her leaders in doing the
same. (It is also to exercise a right
and duty that
the Church herself recognizes.)
It seems to
me that a helpful parallel here might be drawn with a distinction made in the
philosophy of science. In his
recent book on quantum mechanics, Peter Lewis draws a distinction
between (1) the phenomena a physical
theory is meant to explain, (2) the theory
itself, and (3) alternative possible interpretations
of the theory. In the case of quantum
mechanics, the phenomena would include the interference phenomena of the
two-slit experiment, and quantum entanglement phenomena. The theory would include the mathematical
representation of the physical systems central to quantum phenomena, and a law
describing the changes of such systems over time. The interpretations would include accounts of
how the mathematical representation relates to concrete physical reality, such
as the Copenhagen interpretation or the many worlds interpretation.
suggest that a parallel distinction can be drawn between (i) the data of divine
revelation found in scripture and tradition, (ii) authoritative magisterial
statements found in the decrees of councils, papal encyclicals, etc., and (iii)
theological theories and systems that provide alternative interpretations of
the sources of revelation and of magisterial statements.
Now, in the
case of science, especially in popularized accounts, the distinction between (1)
and (2) on the one hand and (3) on the other is often blurred. For example, one sometimes hears sensationalistic
claims to the effect that quantum mechanics has established the existence of
parallel universes, or that it has vindicated the idealist view that physical reality
depends on the observer. In fact,
quantum mechanics per se does not
establish any such claims. Rather, it is
only certain interpretations of quantum
mechanics – or even only certain extrapolations
from certain interpretations of quantum mechanics – that make such claims,
albeit they are interpretations and extrapolations that are sometimes endorsed
in Catholic contexts, the distinction between (i) and (ii) on the one hand and
(iii) on the other is sometimes blurred.
For example, one sometimes hears claims to the effect that Catholic
teaching no longer accepts the idea of limbo, or that it now requires that one affirm
the non-confessional state as the ideal political arrangement. In fact, Catholic magisterial teaching makes
no such claims. It is only certain
theological theories that make such claims, albeit they are theories that are
often endorsed by churchmen.
What Pink is
getting at, I would suggest, is precisely this point. What he calls “official theology” is what I
am referring to as category (iii) theological claims, or as examples of “prevailing
theology” or “dominant theology.” And
he is right to say both that these ideas are not binding on the faithful, and that
they often tend at least implicitly to undermine magisterial teaching and to discourage
churchmen from proclaiming and defending it.
UPDATE 11/10: Pink's views are developed further in a recent three-part article at The Josias on the topic "Vatican II and Crisis in the Theology of Baptism": Part I, Part II, and Part III.
This tactic is of course nothing new. As detailed by John Noonan in The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, this tactic of the theology of the prominent churchmen overriding magisterial teaching has been very much the case since the 16the century and much of Noonan's claim to change in Church teaching on usury derives from changes in the "dominant theology" rather than magisterial statement.ReplyDelete
Noonan writes, "[Late Scholastic writers had] a far greater willingness to recognize the good intentions, honesty, and social utility of financiers and to find moral justification for practices which are accepted without complain by persons more directly affected by them. If practices flourish and bring prosperity and are accepted by the common conscience, it is generally reasoned that there must be some objective foundation for the profits gained from them." (199)
Actual Magisterial statements on usury such as Cum Onus of Pius V (237-238) or Detestabilis avaritia of Sixtus V (220-221) were dismissed as statement of positive rather than natural law and the condemnations of Innocent XI (Denzinger 1190-1192) were interpreted to apply to almost nothing (355-356).
The dominant theology of extrinsic titles grew and expanded to the point where various theologians take it as part of Church teaching, though for example, in Vix Pervenit Benedict XIV states that he does not deny the theory of extrinsic titles, rather than positive endorsing the theory.
Exactly right, Dr Feser. It is a shame that the dominant theology you refer to seems heavily influenced by Modernism. These novel ideas do not arise from the tradition, but rather precisely in reaction against it. It is a particularly insidious thing to note that the Balthasarian approach to salvation does not deny the doctrine of hell outright; for that would be a straightforward case of condemnable heresy. It merely reduces the import of the doctrine down to almost nothing. This is a favourite tactic of the Modernists. It amounts to a dilution of Church teaching down to a harmless, acceptable level. A good and necessary adaptation of the Church to modern sensibilities How much do we need the rigour and sternness of Scholasticism at the core of theological speculation, I think.ReplyDelete
I eagerly look forward to your book on the subject, in which I hope you draw out the relationship between the historical heresy and the Catholic intellectual life today.
That is a great analogy, Dr. Feser, when you compared the data/theory/interpretation of Quantum Theory with Revelation/orthodox dogma & magisterial teaching/individual theological opinions of Catholic Theology.ReplyDelete
"This tactic is of course nothing new."ReplyDelete
Yes, it's new. Apart from clear differences between the theological work on usury that you are criticizing (based upon a Modernist author who justified changing Catholic doctrine), note that none of that theological work was published by bishops to their flocks. It was all the private work of individuals. The big issue today, that is for the past fifty years, has precisely been that the "prevailing heresy" is apparently "official" in that "churchmen" are the ones spreading it (and condemning those who fail to go along quietly).
I agree that much of Noonan's commentary is wrong and he is in happy agreement with the progressive treatment of usury, however, his history is corroborated with others, for example Fr. Patrick Cleary's The Church and Usury.Delete
It is hard for me to believe that Juan Cardinal De Lugo, Thomas Cardinal Cajetan, Fr. Martin de Azpilcueta, Fr. Luis De Molina among clergy in the schools of Salamanca and Tubingen are not to be considered "churchmen" like Balthasar, Ratzinger or other in the "New Theology" school.
Even more recently churchmen such as Cleary attempt to make the position sound reasonable by supposing that there has simply been a change in economic circumstances presupposed by the medieval Church's condemnations. Indeed, the silence in the 19th century responses to question of laxity of confessors on usury (Denzinger 1609-1612) is taken by some as Church approval of these practices contrary to actual teaching.
So, no this isn't something new and it's been going on for awhile.
Perhaps the solution is simply to acknowledge that, if the popes really did intend to teach that charging interest on a loan was intrinsicallty sinful, they were simply wrong. Such a teaching cannot be justified by sound natural law reasoning or from the Scriptures. This idea doesn't belong to the deposit of faith, and is a product of economic illiteracy, i.e., the failure to understand what interest is in the first place: a subjective valuation of time preference.Delete
In other words, popes saying things that are incorrect is not an exclusively post-Vatican II phenomenon.
"This idea doesn't belong to the deposit of faith, and is a product of economic illiteracy..."Delete
Much like the excuses given for Feser's examples that its defenders didn't understand the depths of God's mercy or the dignity of the human person.
"a subjective valuation of time preference."
What a person wants to be owed is insufficient grounds for what he is actually owed.
The argument against usury, as I heard it, regards it as essentially a rent charge on money - which is wrong because money, as a medium of exchange, is lost as it's used and thus can't be rented.Delete
Which would be valid, if that's what was happening with a loan. In fact, however, what's being rented isn't the money, but the things the borrower buys with the money. The money's role is merely to make a complicated transaction understandable to everyone involved. (Which is true of all other uses of money - that's what money is for.)
And "time preference" doesn't refer to opinions on what one's owed. It means that the promise of an apple tomorrow is worth less than an apple in front of me now. And there's nothing subjective about that; it's the common opinion of all humanity, and has as much claim to be objective truth as the statement "2 + 2 = 4".
I very strongly recommend a read of Zippy Catholic's Usury FAQ (easily found on Google). You may already be familiar with it, but others won't be.Delete
It's the only coherent and orthodox attempt to tackle the subject I've ever found. He argues, first, that interest on a full-recourse loan is something entirely different from interest on a non-recourse loan; second, that the latter is permissible, but the former is contrary to both natural law and revealed religion. Finally, he shows how Catholics who want to re-define usury and thereby defend (full-recourse) interest often use almost identical arguments to those who want to defend contraception.
The best thing is he actually reads St Thomas, takes him at his word, and treats him as though he has something serious to say about the subject. Most modern Catholic defenders of usury assume the guy knows nothing about money or interest.
Highly, highly recommended.
I don't meant to be threadjacking Feser's post on something only tangentially related to usury, so I'll try to make this my last comment specifically on usury unless our beneficent host permits otherwise.Delete
"In fact, however, what's being rented isn't the money, but the things the borrower buys with the money."
Even if this were true, and its not, the lender could not rent to me the groceries I bought and consumed.
In any case, the term "loan" in modern jargon means many different equivocal types of contracts differing in the essential structure of authorizations and property claims. Usury has always been about the mutuum contract (see Vix Pervenit in the Latin).
"And "time preference" doesn't refer to opinions on what one's owed."
You may wish to consider the "preference" part of "time preference."
That is not to deny that "time preference" has some relevance in economics and finance when there is real property and property claims, just that it doesn't excuse taking usury. Read Innocent XI cited above.
Thanks. I've read through the FAQ and Aquinas a few times. I actually read St. Thomas first and was more confused, taking usury to be about the money rather than the mutuum. Reading Zippy brought to the forefront the different property claims that can exist particularly around the usufruct and how the usufruct cannot not exist and therefore charged for in the mutuum.
I don't find the FAQ quite so convincing... Vermeersch gives a good explanation of interest in the CE - which article is not the one the FAQ critiques - that seems to address the core problem...Delete
The power to use a store of value (money) is "ontologically real" (to take that bizarre phrase from the FAQ). The lender deprives himself of it when he gives someone money. Because today there are habitually more or less reliable syndicates which can accrue wealth through ("societas") investment - which did not exist in the 13th century, at least nearly to the same extent - one could justly demand the rough opportunity cost of lent capital. The question of excess will be with respect to the lender's status vis-a-vis such opportunities in a general way... a difficult judgment no doubt, but this seems more plausible than the FAQ or even St. Thomas taken wholesale for today's economy. Further, it seems that a business which habitually engages in such lending (like a bank) incurs an habitual risk of total loss of any given investment, thus justifying a further fee for the use of their stored value (money) than the one-time lender who is in a position of needing to evaluate one risk only one time and whose livelihood is guaranteed by other means than the business of lending. Usury would seem to occur when the lender exceeds the appropriate interest with respect to his own circumstances. And it seems that "oppression" occurs when the poor are lent to, especially for consumed goods (like food), when some other means of livelihood is readily available to the lender.
I could be wrong... happy to be shown how. But that someone calls some position "progressive" is not enough - St. Thomas was "progressive" too. And it certainly seems the Church has practically completely disagreed with him for quite a while... in its "official theology" at least!
On the FAQ read Q14 for being deprived of one's opportunity cost and Q19 for risk.
The key question in all of this is what are you charging for. Aquinas, in the De Malo, acknowledges that you can charge for a temporary transfer of the usufruct, as in a lease, transferring the ownership while retaining the usufruct, as in what we call a sale-and-leaseback, or the ownership and usufruct as in a sale. In a mutuum, the ownership is transferred, but under the terms of the mutuum there is no usufruct for the property given and therefore the lender retains no property claims. His charge of something more than is a double charge for the usufruct which is identical to the ownership or the charge for nothing since he does not possess the usufruct. All he has is a promise of return in kind from the borrower, which is not property because it is not the sort of thing that can be alienated from the borrower such that the lender becomes the owner.
"...one could justly demand the rough opportunity cost of lent capital."
The problem is that one cannot charge for the investments he could have made had he not engage in a mutuum. This opportunity cost is not something real that can be charged for because it is a counterfactual and doesn't exist. It the "what he could have done had things been otherwise" which is not something vendible. The lender has no claim over the property lent and consequently has no claim to any profits that could have been made from them.
Again that is not to say that opportunity cost plays an important role when there are real property claims, but specifically in the mutuum, the lender gives up all claims to the property.
The reality of investment was something that Aquinas was aware of and he acknowledged that one could wisely use money to make a profit. However, this is irrelevant to the argument.
"habitual risk of total loss of any given investment"
Risk is not something that can be charged for in itself. It is not property and is only a potential loss. Risk is not vendible, because it is not the sort of thing that is property.
Some people will claim insurance as a counter example, but this simply begs the question. It is wrong to think of insurance as a “transfer of risk” where the insured pays for the insurer to take on the risk. This is proved for example in property insurance, because the insured still suffers the risk of loss and the insured simply agrees to pay him if he should so suffer. Insurance is really a contingent claim against some property put up for security, which Aquinas says is licit as a sort of hiring out in the De Malo.
The interesting historical point is that these titles were historically argued from real property claims and contracts. Opportunity cost was justified when a borrower was late in payment, that is a violation of the contract, and the lender lost the profit to the property he actually had a claim to.
Moreover, usury was considered to be making a profit on a mutuum. Consequently, contracting a mutuum is only ever licit as an act of charity which is much broader than oppression of the poor. To use a friend as a security to produce profits or protect property or as hedge against inflation or the various other excuses given is intrinsically evil as contrary to charity and friendship in addition to unjust.
"All he has is a promise of return in kind from the borrower, which is not property because it is not the sort of thing that can be alienated from the borrower such that the lender becomes the owner."Delete
Let's suppose that, in exchange for a lump sum of money, a person agrees to labor at the payer's direction for a period of several years at lower compensation than he'd otherwise receive. By the rule stated this would have to be called usury - you can't physically separate a man from his labor. And yet such contracts are made often and have never been objected to in principle, as usury has.
That is, the argument proves too much - you would have to outlaw signing bonuses in employment contracts. You might also reject any contract in which one party engages to provide something that doesn't exist yet, because they intend to make it, in exchange for a payment now. Here too, the promise to perform and the person who promises can't be physically separated, making such contracts akin to usury. And here too, such contracts are routinely made with no serious objections - I'm thinking here of book publishers and the practice of advances.
Having read through the Usury FAQ, the idea is that in a mutuum the borrower promises to return the same money that the lender gave him, plus a little over, and the objection is that the "little over" is being paid for nothing. But that's not how economic theory would describe it. The money paid by the lender and the money paid later by the borrower are not the same money at different times - they're two packets of money, and no material connection leads from one to the other. The borrower's' packet is just being traded away before he's earned it.
And in other contexts this sort of trading in future goods, that exist only potentially, raises no moral issue. It's only potential money that can't be traded, apparently. I don't think this has been adequately explained.
"I don't think this has been adequately explained."Delete
Right. In Michael #1's response, there are a number of undefended assertions made which are actually at issue... For example, "The problem is that one cannot charge for the investments he could have made had he not engage in a mutuum. This opportunity cost is not something real that can be charged for because it is a counterfactual and doesn't exist."
"Risk is not something that can be charged for in itself."
Thomas got some things wrong. I think his treatment of usury is, basically, wrong. So do most contemporary moralists, just as most dogmatists would disagree with his theory of sacramental intention. We have an easy way of explaining away the lacuna - not only was 13th century Europe very different in its economic structure, but our theologian was a mendicant. (Yes, his family was wealthy, but... weak sauce if you ask me.) There could be other motivations for his treatment as well, such as an overly zealous tendency to defend the Fathers' opinions.
Let's take his wine-bottle example and muddy the waters. Suppose the bottle of wine is determined by the market to be worth $10. I, the vendor, charge people who come to my wine store, all of whom are wine-drinkers, $20. My customers trust my judgment on prices, so I exploit this trust and overcharge them.
Another wine vendor charges $10 for the same bottle of wine, but then $10 if the bottle is consumed. In both cases, the consumption of the wine costs $20… What you pay to drink this bottle of wine, from either vendor, is the same. The difference is only when the payments are demanded. A buyer could easily give $20 to the second vendor up front. So it seems the second vendor’s pricing structure is not actually any different from mine in practice, since our customers are wine drinkers.
A third vendor has an identical pricing structure as the second vendor, but he runs a prop lending business based in Hollywood, and the wine bottle must be returned by a certain time or even more payment must be made (moratory interest). Surely, this would not be unjust… And while producers could go to a market-price vendor for the same bottle, the convenience of the prop lender is enough to sway their choice.
A fourth vendor charges $10 - the market price. He will rake it in, soon enough.
It does not seem to me so much that the second vendor is doing something unjust, except in some extreme cases where monopoly meets inelasticisty (such as a life-saving medicine). It is practically the same as the first vendor – it is a bad price, not an unjust price. And eventually it will also hurt the vendor in most cases.
The value of money is extrinsic to the cash itself. It is only so valuable because of future contingents (viz., people accepting this currency in such and such a way), so the very forum of our consideration is the realm of possible future contingents. So an appeal to things “not existing” and therefore being “unsaleable” seems off. So too does the claim that risk is not something one can sell… Of course, risk always comes with an accompanying action, in this case, putting one’s own capital in the hands of another with the possibility of partially or even totally losing it. Do we not pay people for doing dangerous work in proportion with the danger, especially when they are not morally obliged to do that work? That seems just to me. You take a gratuitous (non-obligatory) risk in order to reap a just and proportionate reward. Of course there can be excesses and abuses, but usually the market will eventually punish such people on its own.
"The value of money is extrinsic to the cash itself. It is only so valuable because of future contingents (viz., people accepting this currency in such and such a way), so the very forum of our consideration is the realm of possible future contingents. So an appeal to things “not existing” and therefore being “unsaleable” seems off."
If you are unconcerned about the existence of what you are buying, I have a bridge to sell you.
Certainly future contingents play a role in valuation, you'll pay more for capital you expect will produce more, but you aren't buying future contingents. You are buying the actual property that may be more or less valuable in virtue of future contingents. No one actually owns the future contingents, because they are not the sort of thing that can be owned.
"Do we not pay people for doing dangerous work in proportion with the danger, especially when they are not morally obliged to do that work?"
Again there is a distinction between valuation and what you are paying for. The laborer is paid for the actual work he does. That labor may be more or less valuable because of the risk involved, it is not the risk that he sells. The employer does not become the owner or take possession of the risk of the laborer.
"By the rule stated this would have to be called usury - you can't physically separate a man from his labor."
By a man's labors he actualizes some state of affairs. This is alienable from the laborer. See Q17 in the FAQ.
"the idea is that in a mutuum the borrower promises to return the same money"
You may wish to consider that "in kind" differs from "the same" as in identically the same property. This is discussed in Q2 of the FAQ.
"And in other contexts this sort of trading in future goods, that exist only potentially, raises no moral issue."
One would have to actually consider the matter of what the terms of contract are in order to determine if the matter is usury or not or unjust more generally. For example, consider Q46 on futures contracts. The problem that most consider usurious contracts licit is what is at issue.
I'm writing in a hurry, so apologies if my answers seem a little curt.Delete
"And yet such contracts are made often and have never been objected to in principle, as usury has."
Such contracts may or may not be objectionable in principle (because they may or may not constitute a disguised full-recourse loan at interest). It would depend on the details. This is not a counter-argument.
"That is, the argument proves too much - you would have to outlaw signing bonuses in employment contracts."
A signing bonus is an inducement to enter a job. It is specifically different from lending money at interest. No interest is payable. Nobody is pretending to rent money. A penalty for non-performance of a contract is, of course, different from interest.
The same applies to book advances.
"Having read through the Usury FAQ, the idea is that in a mutuum the borrower promises to return the same money that the lender gave him, plus a little over, and the objection is that the "little over" is being paid for nothing."
Actually, this is a mis-reading. In a societas, the borrower promises to return this or that specific asset to the lender, plus a little over. The asset is a really-existing thing, though not necessarily tangible. In a mutuum, the borrower promises to return an amount in kind to the lender, plus a little over. The trouble is, an amount in kind doesn't really exist; it's merely an idea, or an abstraction. Hence money is being taken for nothing, and we see a kind of theft.
Modern people, by the way, love to invent abstractions and pretend they're real; much evil follows from this. It originates, I think, with Descartes' mechanical philosophy, and the implication that meaning is just in the mind.
"But that's not how economic theory would describe it."
Modern economic theory is (I would argue) based on nominalism and utter subjectivism about value, as the FAQ explains.
"The money paid by the lender and the money paid later by the borrower are not the same money at different times - they're two packets of money, and no material connection leads from one to the other. The borrower's' packet is just being traded away before he's earned it."
I don't understand how this overcomes the 'money for nothing' claim.
"And in other contexts this sort of trading in future goods, that exist only potentially, raises no moral issue. It's only potential money that can't be traded, apparently. I don't think this has been adequately explained."
Question 35 attempts to answer this -- what about it is inadequate?
"Right. In Michael #1's response, there are a number of undefended assertions made which are actually at issue..."Delete
Michael H defends these assertions in his comment @ 2.59pm, paragraphs beginning "the problem is that one", and "risk is not something". The assertions are also defended in the FAQ, questions 14, 15 and 18. (If you're Catholic, note that the magisterium has formally condemned the practice of charging for the 'time value of money' -- see Q14 for details.)
"Thomas got some things wrong..."
Skipping this paragraph as it seems to be ad-hominem.
"Another wine vendor charges $10 for the same bottle of wine, but then $10 if the bottle is consumed."
In this case, the payment of $10 does not bring about full ownership of the bottle, since the 'vendor' is reserving certain rights and preventing the 'buyer' from doing with his property as he pleases. In a full-recourse loan, the borrower does gain ownership rights of the money. We know he gains ownership rights because he is allowed (and expected) to dispose of it, and you can only dispose of something that you own. Therefore, he is paying rent for something he owns. So the parallel does not hold, and St Thomas's argument is not refuted.
The third vendor is simply renting bottles and applying penalties to a contract. Whether or not it's called 'interest', he's not charging for money, he's charging for failing to return his property. Completely different thing. It's not names or labels that matter, but the substance of the thing. Interest on a non-recourse loan, whatever label you apply to it, is not immoral.
"The value of money is extrinsic to the cash itself. It is only so valuable because of future contingents (viz., people accepting this currency in such and such a way), so the very forum of our consideration is the realm of possible future contingents."
I don't know if this is true. In any case, many things are good (ie, valuable) only because they can bring about other things; I don't see how this affects the argument.
"So an appeal to things “not existing” and therefore being “unsaleable” seems off."
A house exists in and of itself. So does a patent, or a bundle of assets called a company. These thing can be alienated from their owner. A promise to repay exists only as a property of a person. It can't be alienated from him, and therefore can't be sold or rented.
"So too does the claim that risk is not something one can sell…"
Please see above.
"By a man's labors he actualizes some state of affairs. This is alienable from the laborer."Delete
That state of affairs is not alienable before it's become actual - which is when the man gets the money, in the cases I gave. It's no more possible to separate a man's promise to work from the man than it is to separate his promise to pay from him. Thus on the principle as stated, it's intrinsically immoral to pay for labor before it's been done - which is absurd.
"A signing bonus is an inducement to enter a job."
A signing bonus is, objectively, compensation for labor that has yet to be performed - a trade for something that doesn't exist, at the time of the trade. (Whether the parties think of it that way doesn't matter.) Book advances are the same.
I put it to you that a mutuum contract differs from these only because the potential good that's sold is money - and yes, that's a difference, but I fail to see how it affects the moral question.
"I don't understand how this overcomes the 'money for nothing' claim."
A mutuum is a trade of an actual thing (the money in hand) for a potential thing (also money - but not the same money.) And a potential thing is not nothing; potentialities are real, though not actual - "ontologically real" as Zippy put it. (Otherwise change would be impossible and Parmenides' "block universe" would be the truth.)
"Modern economic theory is (I would argue) based on nominalism and utter subjectivism about value, as the FAQ explains."
Well, the FAQ does say that. And to do it justice, economists very often speak as if value exists nowhere but the human mind. But it isn't necessary to accept nominalism to accept modern economic theory. All we have to accept is that value is a function of the final causes of things.
Which, if you think about it, is clearly true. If a tool isn't fit for any purpose, it doesn't matter how much labor went into making it or how excellent its materials were - it has no value, because it has no purpose, and everything used up in making it was wasted.
I remind you, incidentally, that final causes have to exist in some mind before they can exist in matter; that's one of the classic proofs that God exists, and that He is rational.
Finally, Q. 35 in the FAQ. Really I have covered this already: the argument there is just that a "pledge to return in kind" is pledging to surrender a thing that exists only potentially, which is supposedly impossible. As I've said already, it proves too much. Any contract whatsoever in which a thing is paid for before it's made would have to be outlawed as mutuum and usurious.
"the argument there is just that a "pledge to return in kind" is pledging to surrender a thing that exists only potentially, which is supposedly impossible. As I've said already, it proves too much. Any contract whatsoever in which a thing is paid for before it's made would have to be outlawed as mutuum and usurious."Delete
The pledge is something actual. The borrower actually makes it and it really empowers the lender to exact his principle at the time of return.
"By the rule stated this would have to be called usury..."
The rule (i.e. the inalienability of a promise) stated is only a part of the whole. In the mutuum, the lender has no property claim against which to charge more over the return in kind he receives back. In that context, the promise is itself not a piece of property the lender can charge for.
"A mutuum is a trade of an actual thing (the money in hand) for a potential thing (also money - but not the same money.)"
The lender does not receive potential money, he receives a promise of return in kind which empowers him to exact his principle at some future date.
"The pledge is something actual. The borrower actually makes it and it really empowers the lender to exact his principle at the time of return."Delete
But the money that was pledged is not actual - it will exist only if the borrower works to earn it.
"The lender does not receive potential money"
Ah, but he does - he receives part of the borrower's potency for earning money.
I think the most acute argument in the Usury FAQ is the claim that interest on a mutuum is really a claim to own shares in a person, which is akin to slavery. It has the merit of being in line with what modern economic theory says on the subject. But it's still wrong because (this is rather a theme) it proves too much: the principle, if valid, applies to any arrangement by which a worker is paid for labor he hasn't yet done. For here too, what the employer owns is a claim on the worker's future services, which can't be alienated from him until he's done them. A normal mutuum states the claim in terms of money, but (as the FAQ and Aquinas both mention) any good whatever might be the matter of the promise, including the borrower's labor.
That things which aren't actual are unreal, can't be transferred from one person to another, and therefore must not be treated as property, is the central assumption in the Usury FAQ. But that assumption, taken seriously, leads to ridiculous conclusions (authors must not receive advances against royalties from their books?) and therefore can't be correct.
"But the money that was pledged is not actual - it will exist only if the borrower works to earn it."
This is exactly true. The pledge however is in fact actual as a moral power to obligate the borrower.
"Ah, but he does - he receives part of the borrower's potency for earning money."
You have provided no reason to believe this.
"For here too, what the employer owns is a claim on the worker's future services, which can't be alienated from him until he's done them."
Depending on the terms of the agreement the employer receives the promise of the laborer to complete the services promised. The employer does not however own the future services nor does he own part of the workers power to actualize those services.
"But that assumption, taken seriously, leads to ridiculous conclusions"
Since you've adopted ridiculous premises about what an employer owns with respect to his employees or what an employer obtains from granting a signing bonus, for example, you'll certainly arrive at ridiculous conclusions. This can be corrected.
Lots of ideas... This is why the discussion took off after Thomas. And it was finally more or less settled - on the "liberal" side.Delete
The argument, as Michael #2 points out, proves too much. It destroys the possibility of capitalism as a system... risk should entail reward, over and above what was actually "given" in an objective sense. It is up to the market to determine subjectively what things are worth.
Just a few observations... Unfortunately I can't be dragged into this too much!
"If you're Catholic, note that the magisterium has formally condemned the practice of charging for the 'time value of money' -- see Q14 for details."
I am Catholic, and I know the documents well enough. I also know that prooftexting the popes does not make for good theology. I can show you three popes who thought that presbyters could ordain priests! What must be shown is that lending money at interest is infallibly condemned by the ordinary magisterium, which I think it pretty clearly is not. And yes, treating the magisterium as a list of infallible propositions and nothing more is also a path to bad theology, but there is also a centuries old discussion which we are dealing with here. So, yes, I think the pope was wrong, if I am understanding him correctly, which perhaps I am not. But elsewhere - even in Denzinger - this position against usury is not so uniform. So we need to reflect on what is there, what isn't, and the whole discussion, in context.
"In this case, the payment of $10 does not bring about full ownership of the bottle..."
I do not see how this is possible - if I own the money, it is not lent to me. In fact, the person who buys the wine bottle but not the right to drink it owns it more than the one borrowing money... The money must be returned entirely, while the wine bottle need not be.
"The third vendor is simply renting bottles and applying penalties to a contract. ...."
And the penalty in the case of lending money might apply immediately and compound with time. There are uses for wine bottles, which are valuable mostly in consumption, and there are uses for money, mostly in exchange, store of value, and having a unit of account. You could also burn it to make a fire, or make a money pit to dive in like Scrooge McDuck. Whatever the case, the cost of ME giving YOU the money I earned through work or taking risk comes with the just expectation that you will compensate me for giving you what I do not owe you in justice, what reasonable other investments (elsewhere in the market) I could have made with that money, and the risk of losing such loans entirely or partially. And this system of lending has created the healthiest economies in world history. (The comparison with contraception is, frankly, puerile - no, good outcomes do not justify bad means, but good outcomes do not mean the act was bad.)
"In any case, many things are good (ie, valuable) only because they can bring about other things; I don't see how this affects the argument."
Because there is this notion that what is bought must be able to be seen or touched, which is false. What is bought in a monetary loan is the right to use power, namely, through a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account we call currency. This right of the borrower did not exist with him before the money was lent... It was with the lender. The lender momentarily deprives himself of this good for the borrower so that the borrower might better himself or the community, or at least have a good time at his own discretion.
"...risk should entail reward, over and above what was actually "given" in an objective sense."
The argument is that risk as such cannot be sold. An investor may require that a riskier capital investment provide a higher expected return, but it is a property claim against the capital that is sold and not the risk as such.
In the mutuum, the lender transfers ownership and usufruct claims to the borrower for a promise of return in kind. The lender has no further property claim from which he can expect a return regardless of the risk involved in the contract.
One may ask why someone would take that risk or give that money for no profit. The answer is that the mutuum is a naturally gratuitous contract and therefore an act of charity. To exact more is to abuse a friend in addition to an act of injustice.
I still think your parallel between prepayment for labour and interest on a mutuum is invalid.
We should return to our premises, which are different. Michael H @ 2.59pm summarises our fundamental disagreement: "The key question in all of this is what are you charging for... In a mutuum, the ownership is transferred, but under the terms of the mutuum there is no usufruct for the property given and therefore the lender *retains no property claims*. His charge of something more than is a double charge for the usufruct which is identical to the ownership or the charge for nothing since he does not possess the usufruct..."
If Michael H is right -- and this key point hasn't really been discussed -- then your parallel between prepayment for labour and interest on a mutuum does not work. This is because prepayment for labour creates a claim to something, while a mutuum loan creates no claim.
To illustrate. Suppose I pay a man in advance to build a fence round my garden. My claim is to a particular, defined benefit -- which the man may be closely involved with, but which is nonetheless distinct and separable from him. Certainly his labour brings this about, but it is only accidentally connected, in the manner of an efficient cause. I make no claim to his labour as such. This is clear from the fact that if he hires a sub-contractor to complete the work, he has still fulfilled the contract.
It is not so with usury. My claim to 'rent' on the money I lent him is for something that doesn't exist, so it is invalid, a pretence. But this pretence leads to further absurdity. If he doesn't pay, I make a claim to his 'future labour'. But this is invalid for the same reason: the 'future labour of the worker' _as such_ also doesn't exist. Or rather, it doesn't exist separately from the man; it exists only as a power (potential operation) of the man. Therefore I can't claim it, any more than I can claim him.
In the one case, my claim is to a benefit which is only accidentally related to the man who brings it about. In the other, my (pretended) claim is to labour as such, and therefore to the man as such.
This, of course, assumes that there is no claim in justice to interest on a mutuum. If St Thomas and Zippy were wrong about this, and a mutuum really does provide me with a claim on a thing, your reductio ad absurdum would hold. But they aren't, so it doesn't. As far as I can see, the counter-argument requires an entirely subjective theory of value. Hence the subjectivim and nominalism (good/value is in the eye of the beholder) of modern economics, which tries to justify a practice that was once universally seen as wicked.
What is bought in a monetary loan is the right to use power, namely, through a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account we call currency.Delete
If I might point out a way in which the argument seems to be bogging down: As Michael Humphreys and (I think) English Catholic pointed out earlier, this sense of 'buying' (and the sense of owning on which it is based) stretches the term so far that you need to justify not treating it just as a legal or accounting fiction or as a loose metaphor. Loan contracts are not obviously sales contracts; most loans (for instance, just everyday borrowing among ordinary people) are not structured as any kind of buying at all. It's only in the context of a large system of financial institutions that one would even be tempted to think that something is "bought" in a monetary loan. It's certainly possible that ordinary people are really buying and selling without realizing it, or that the buying was discovered by advances in financial institutions; but that it is so, and that the whole thing is not a fiction for certain legal and accounting purposes, is precisely one of the things that needs to be established.
And this is particularly important here since the old strict interpretations like Aquinas's own directly imply that any attempt to analogize between loan and sale will break down at several ethically relevant points -- any argument against such a strict position that just assumes that the analogy is adequate is logically question-begging. In effect, you are arguing in the wrong place; yes, given all the assumptions you are allowing yourself, it no doubt shapes up as you say. But the analogies those assumptions express have not been conceded, and the question is why does anyone have to concede them?
"Depending on the terms of the agreement the employer receives the promise of the laborer to complete the services promised."Delete
The best reply I can make is to quote the Usury FAQ itself. From Q. 7: "Usurious contracts pretend to be a property interest in something – in some thing – but the property over which they assert a claim doesn’t actually exist at the time it is 'sold'." That statement can be paraphrased as a syllogism: In a mutuum the lender claims a property interest in something that exists only potentially; no such property interest is possible, as only actual things can be owned; therefore a mutuum is inherently fraudulent.
Now my point is that the major premise of that syllogism, that only actual things can be owned, applies outside the context of finance, to contracts that nobody objects to. For instance, an artist working on commission often receives partial payment before starting work. Who thinks that's immoral? Yet it must be, under this assumption.
And it doesn't help you to say "but the promise is real!" That doesn't distinguish a mutuum from other ways of dealing in futures - the promises are just as real, and the property is just as unreal, in both. That line of thinking is just muddled.
"That statement can be paraphrased as a syllogism: In a mutuum the lender claims a property interest in something that exists only potentially; no such property interest is possible, as only actual things can be owned; therefore a mutuum is inherently fraudulent."
If you replace "mutuum" with "usury" you are getting closer. The mutuum does not include a property interest in something that exists potentially. The lender has a claim against the person in the form of a promise, this is specifically not property, because a person cannot be property.
The purported fraudulence of a mutuum derives principally from a mischaracterization of what is actually being exchanged. Your other complaints about the implications of the usury doctrine follow from a similar false premise.
This is typically the reason I prefer to phrase the mutuum as an exchange of such and such to make explicit the terms of the exchange.
In the case of a mutuum of money, the lender is exchanging his money now for a promise of return in the future. That the usufruct, or the claim to use (or "power") of the money in exchange, goes with it is at the core of Aquinas' explanation of the evil of usury.
CRS's hang up seems to be that the lender can have a property claim on future contingents. He suggests this is proved because people value property on the expectation of future contingents given that it is used it in such and such a way. However, since the lender gives the usufruct as well as the ownership, he has no claim to the profits that might be derived from its use.
Relatedly, the profits he could have made from its use had he not engaged in the mutuum is something by definition that will never exist. It exists only in the despair of the lender for those never-to-be-had-profits. To charge for this is to charge for what will never exist or for something inalienable from the lender. This is not a loss for something he should have for the exact reason that he gives the property away in the terms of the mutuum.
“The argument is that risk as such cannot be sold.”Delete
Granted. The right to use temporarily my own money is being sold, and because I take the risk of not regaining it, I get to determine the conditions of my loan – to which the borrower may agree or not. If not, then we have no deal. If so, we have a deal, regardless of whether it is market price or not. (And yes, there are excesses to this, such as seeking out and taking advantage of the neediest or most foolish people – but typically those people are not bettering the commonwealth as normal borrowers would.)
“One may ask why someone would take that risk or give that money for no profit. The answer is that the mutuum is a naturally gratuitous contract and therefore an act of charity.”
It could be charity, in the case of a gratuitous loan without interest – or a loan out of justice, which one is bound to make – or a middle-path, where both parties stand to benefit financially. We are talking about the third kind, unless you wish to dispute its possibility.
“To exact more is to abuse a friend in addition to an act of injustice.”
Well, we are not normally making interest-loans to friends, are we. But I wonder if we could put this in more familiar terms… I need a rake to clean my yard. You lend me a rake, and say that I owe you a beer, as a condition. I agree, rake my yard, return the rake, and get you the beer which I promised you from my refrigerator. We both got something good out of the transaction, and no harm was done. Is this usury? I would certainly think not… In fact, if I refused the deal, it seems I would pretty much be a total jerk who is way too attached to my beers. My valuation of the rake is based not only on the good of the rake, but the good of the rake to me at this point in time in which I actually need to use it. I want the rake for the sake of a further good – a clean yard, which I obtain by using the rake for a time – the worth of which is at least equivalent to a beer from my refrigerator. I give what I am willing to give for obtaining the thing I want more, so we come closer to some kind of pareto optimality, as everyone is now better off than he was before.
“this sense of 'buying' (and the sense of owning on which it is based) stretches the term so far that you need to justify not treating it just as a legal or accounting fiction or as a loose metaphor.”Delete
Okay – but “money” is a kind of fiction too… Ultimately, so is private ownership. It’s just pre-eminently useful for now, for keeping peace, order, and motivation to better our community. This is where Thomas seems to be going against himself… In the end, the wine bottle isn’t “mine,” it is part of God’s creation.
And this is particularly important here since the old strict interpretations like Aquinas's own directly imply that any attempt to analogize between loan and sale will break down at several ethically relevant points -- any argument against such a strict position that just assumes that the analogy is adequate is logically question-begging. In effect, you are arguing in the wrong place; yes, given all the assumptions you are allowing yourself, it no doubt shapes up as you say. But the analogies those assumptions express have not been conceded, and the question is why does anyone have to concede them?
I think a lot of the problem is coming down to what “money” is, as I intimate above. But tell me what you think of my rake example above.
Thanks for the discussion (to all) – it’s great. I am now thinking about doing my STL thesis on the history of this problem. I’ve discovered that Thomas wrote several personal letters on the topic applying his thought… and then the whole history of the reception of Vix Pervenit is fascinating, up to the more recent decrees of the Holy Office.
I make no ownership claims when I prepay for labour. I make no claim to property. I do something different: I create an obligation on the man to work. The latter does not imply the former. So the major premise does not apply to this example.Delete
Not every transfer of money involves a claim of ownership in return. Your argument assumes that it does.
If I make a mutuum loan, I do claim an ownership right. But it is a false claim, for the reasons given in Q7.
Admittedly my previous comment didn't make this point as clearly as it should have.
"The right to use temporarily my own money is being sold, and because I take the risk of not regaining it, I get to determine the conditions of my loan – to which the borrower may agree or not."
In a sense, you can determine the terms of the mutuum as in what you put on paper. However, this only begs the question if demanding more is in fact licit whether you want to make the deal or not.
The core of the argument is that you cannot exchange the usufruct or claim to use of the money as separate from the ownership which you receive back. You would have to actually engage that aspect of the argument to make any head way, otherwise you're simply begging the question.
"It could be charity, in the case of a gratuitous loan without interest – or a loan out of justice, which one is bound to make – or a middle-path, where both parties stand to benefit financially. We are talking about the third kind, unless you wish to dispute its possibility."
Again this is question begging or equivocating. Precisely what is at issue is whether engaging in a mutuum for profit is licit. The modern term "loan" refers to many different contracts and is therefore equivocal. Some "loans" are mutua and therefore charging for profit is illicit. Others are not and may be licit or illicit for other reasons.
"Is this usury?"
No because it is not a mutuum. The lender receives back identically the same property he gave and not a return in kind. This is more like a lease where the leasor holds the ownership of the thing while temporarily transferring the usufruct. For the usufruct of the rake he charges a beer and receives it back after the term of the lease.
"To illustrate. Suppose I pay a man in advance to build a fence round my garden. My claim is to a particular, defined benefit -- which the man may be closely involved with, but which is nonetheless distinct and separable from him. Certainly his labour brings this about, but it is only accidentally connected, in the manner of an efficient cause. I make no claim to his labour as such. This is clear from the fact that if he hires a sub-contractor to complete the work, he has still fulfilled the contract."Delete
Well, if you look at it that way ... it's not even hard to recast a mutuum in those terms. After all, the lender isn't really interested in the borrower's labor as such. What he wants is a particular defined benefit (the sum of money specified) which, though the borrower is closely involved with, remains distinct from him and can be separated from him, once he's earned it. Heck, even with non-recourse loans, what the FAQ calls societas, the lender almost never wants the security for the loan - he wants the regular payments. And the lender doesn't care, has no reason to care, how the borrower gets the money, as long as he has it before the loan expires. So again, the attempted distinction fails.
The real difference between a mutuum and a straightforward advance payment for labor is this: in a mutuum the two things being exchanged happen to be of the same kind, while wages are paid for services that are not money. Nothing but this distinguishes the cases.
So the issue of usury ultimately depends on one question: Are a thing which is available now, and a physically identical thing which will be available only after time has passed, really equivalent in value? If they are, the lender in a mutuum has a just claim on the principal and not a penny more. If not - if the future good is worth less in the present - then the lender may ask for more in the future (numerically) than he gives in the present, and the difference is the interest.
I'll mention in passing that the Usury FAQ's premise (sale of potential things is impossible) is not in the Summa or Vix Pervenit. What is there is the simple assumption that a unit of money now and a unit of money in the future are equivalent in value; and this is not stated in either, but taken for granted. Zippy misread his sources.
Having got this far, let's examine the question. Is it actually true that a present good and a future good of the same kind must be of equal value? Bearing in mind that the value of things depends on their use, that is their purpose, natural end, and final cause. More on this later.
“In a sense, you can determine the terms of the mutuum as in what you put on paper. However, this only begs the question if demanding more is in fact licit whether you want to make the deal or not.”
But what seems to be missing, in the classical argument, is an openness to mutual monetary gains through lending. Why? You say:
“The core of the argument is that you cannot exchange the usufruct or claim to use of the money as separate from the ownership which you receive back. You would have to actually engage that aspect of the argument to make any head way, otherwise you're simply begging the question.”
I understand that is the core of the argument. I am trying to point out that it is contrary to common sense not to expect payment for rendering a risky non-obligatory service, namely, giving someone a tool to use temporarily. I not only want my tool back, but I want my tool and then some. And I think this is quite fair, and both parties usually come away happy about the transaction.
“The lender receives back identically the same property he gave and not a return in kind. This is more like a lease where the leasor holds the ownership of the thing while temporarily transferring the usufruct. For the usufruct of the rake he charges a beer and receives it back after the term of the lease.”
Right. For some reason it only applies to money. And nobody has shown me convincingly why only money, which is a general store of value as opposed to a “specific” store of value (like a rake, or a bottle of wine) is somehow off-limits. I could ask my neighbor for a second rake instead of a beer, if raking one’s yard tended to make rakes fall down from the sky – as it turns out, that is almost how it is with monetary loans.
As good as Zippy was in laying out the scholastic position on usury, his argument has the same difficulties as those St. Thomas’s argument has. Not bad company to keep, to be sure, but effectively he argued by reliance on authority, and his FAQs bear the same limitations.Delete
St. Thomas’s position relies on the notion of things which are consumed in use, and then applies that notion to money. But one should note that even in doing so, Thomas explicitly (and somewhat uncharacteristically) slides or pushes on the notion by extending it, but does so without an explicit argument for it: “the proper and principal use of money is its consumption or alienation” Notice the “or alienation” that he adds to the notion of consumption. But what is curious here is that it is simply not obvious or manifest that “alienation” does the same work as “consumption” does in the argument. A thing that is consumed in its use CAN’T be given back. But a thing that is alienated might, in fact, be given back: if a person spends the loaned money on beer, and then offers to work for the tavern washing dishes, he might receive back the very same dollars that he had spend on the beer, and return them in payment of the loan. It is, of course, purely accidental that he would be paid the very same physical dollars (unless he bargained for that very result), but the fact that it is POSSIBLE makes the issue clouded. St. Thomas does not argue that alienation does the same work as consumption, he seems to assume it. Maybe it is fine because the case can be argued, but in fact neither Thomas nor Zippy made the argument explicitly.
A second feature of the issue is that money can be used without alienating it. Let me give a real life example: my father wanted to go to an auction to buy an item that he estimated would sell for roughly $300 to $400, which amount he had available. However, the “buy in” to get into the auction was to show that he had $2,000 in ready cash available – and this amount he did not have. So he went to a bank and arranged a short-term loan of $2,000 (he asked for it in the form of two $1,000 bills, so it was easy to carry and show), went to the auction, bought the item he was interested in, and returned the $2,000 to the bank the next day. He did in fact use the money, but not via alienation. A “flash” fellow might “use” a thick roll of bills similarly, to impress his confreres without ever using it up.
There are also other possible uses of money without alienation. An artist might borrow 100 gold coins in order to paint a picture and get the sheen right and the picture on the front of the coins correct. A rich fellow might use the same gold coins as a paperweight, or as a door stop. An Archimedes might use the gold coins in an alloy concentration volumetric analysis. An electrical engineer might use the gold coins in testing electrical conductivity of various alloys.
The reality is that in St. Thomas’s day (and for the entirety of the 2,000 years before Thomas in which money was a common reality), “money” meant the commodity-money of gold, silver, or copper coins: money was an artifact made of a substance that has its own nature. The substance has uses that are not those of money, and other uses (besides those of money) can never be “improper” uses of the substance merely because they are not monetary uses. And (as with the artist and with the Archimedes analysis), precisely because the gold pieces have been made into money, the stuff has a fascination and reason-for-concern as money that extends beyond spending it. I am sure that St. Thomas’s awareness the possibility of using money as a doorstop is why he added in the language “proper and principal use”, but it is hard to definitively argue that the artist’s and Archimedes uses are certainly out-of-bounds, and most certainly my father’s use of it was qua money, even though he used it without alienation. So what if the most common use is in exchange?
The underlying, conceptual difficulty here is that because money is an artifact, it has no TRUE “nature”, all one might say about it is that it has a quasi-nature, and hence various uses of it can approach closer or farther from its most typical uses and qualify as a use “qua money” as a difference in degree rather than as a difference in kind. It’s use in those “other” ways cannot be said to be “unnatural” or “improper” in a definitive sense, because there is no “nature” as such; one could not for example pose a “perverted faculty” type argument on its use in the same way one can by reason of the natural ends of a living thing.Delete
Further, because money (insofar as it is “a kind of thing” at all) is a medium of exchange, it is entirely unclear whether “exchange” has the same conceptual results as does “consumption” for St. Thomas’s thesis. One must note that there are several different sorts of “alienation”, and we are working only with one type here. Alienation includes gift, sale, state fines, and even state condemnation / commandeering / “takings”. And the specific type we are looking at here is that of “exchange”.
When a thing like wine is used in consumption, it is destroyed, and so it cannot be returned to the lender; at best the borrower can only return something of similar attributes: something the same in number, weight, and quality (e.g. one apple for another apple). But (of course) when the borrower uses the apple in consumption, he no longer possesses the apple to be returned (for otherwise he would not need to borrow the apple he asks for). Nor need he possess ANYTHING of similar value after using the apple: the use of the apple in consumption by no means an implication of his having something of like value as a result of the consumption. However, when money is used, it is NOT destroyed, it is exchanged for something of equal value, and necessarily the borrower might be able to hand over that which he bought as recompense for the loan, if the lender is agreeable to the change in payment form. I.e. there is no natural necessity that in a loan of money that the lender receive back money of the exact same type and number as he gave up, the terms of the loan can comprise a return of ANY sort of repayment at all “by nature”, and hence the “any sort” might entail exactly repayment with the very thing that the borrower spent the money on in exchange in his use of the money. All that is necessary is that the borrower pay back what is of equal value to the money he borrowed (for justice to be satisfied, i.e. for equality to be restored). Since there is no natural necessity in the nature of a loan that the return be made as money, it is not in the least bit manifest that alienation VIA EXCHANGE does the same conceptual work as does consumption.
Now one must be careful in that St. Thomas is speaking of a “mutuum” contract in these articles, not just any old loan. But the distinction doesn’t speak to the above problem, at least not definitively. If, in the making of the loan, the lender does not explicitly agree to limit the extent of his claim to object the borrower intends to purchase, but simply imposes an ordinary obligation to be repaid “equally”, there is nothing that by nature requires that he END UP limiting his repayment to money. He can willingly accept repayment in ANY sort of return of value, whether it be commodity-money or simply some commodity he values equally. Or labor by the borrower, if that is offered instead. Because the terms of the loan are not at the outset limited to a specific set of goods as collateral, it qualifies as a mutuum, but nothing in the nature of a mutuum REQUIRES repayment as money. In the domain of exchange, barter and labor payments also qualify as “equal” exchanges, and exchanges with commodity-money on one side and an object (or labor) on the other side are simply one subset of legitimate exchanges. Hence mutuum loans CAN be repaid via goods or labor rather than in money. It is merely that in the making of a mutuum loan, everyone knows in advance that repayment via the same amount of money will satisfy the loan, so there is less need to spell out repayment terms carefully. And so it is not possible to say that in a mutuum loan, the use of the money implies of its own nature that there cannot be a repayment in satisfaction of the demands of justice simply out of the proceeds of the purchase which constitutes the use of the money – and thus it is not manifest that alienation does the same work as consumption.Delete
A third difficulty with St. Thomas’s use of the distinction of things consumed in use and things not consumed in use is that of itself, it seems to ignore matters of degree. Bill might readily lend his car to Sam so he can go to the drug store for medicine, and receive back “the car” in satisfaction of the loan. We might even agree to refuse to bother with the gas used up as an issue – let’s assume Sam put in gas to replace what he used. But what about the oil? What about tire rubber used up? You only get a few thousand miles out of one set of oil, and maybe 50,000 miles on a set of tires: these items are called “ordinary wear” items rather than warrantee items precisely because it is recognized that they wear out and need replenishment. But let’s go further: what about the CAR ITSELF? If Bill is in the business of renting cars, he knows full well that he has to charge effectively for every mile of use, because a car only gets about 150,000 to 250,000 miles out of it, and he has to replace the car as a whole when it is used up. Borrowing a car for 250,000 miles of use IS equivalent to “consuming it”. By charging for the use over the ENTIRE range of its use, i.e. for every mile of use, he receives repayment for every miniscule “using up” that its use entails.
But the same is true of effectively EVERY physical object in use. Few physical objects in use remain in use after 100 years, almost none after 500 years, unless they have been effectively replenished in the way of virtual replacement. EVEN MONEY ITSELF tends to be “used up” in its use, and needs restoration and/or replacement after a while. The US Treasury recognizes this in its practice of destroying old dollar bills and pushing new ones into the economy. The same was true in the days of gold and silver coin: even without intentional damage such as clipping, coins that get handled frequently get rubbed down so that either the original surface can no longer be discerned, or even they lose so much weight that they are simply not even worth what they started out as. Hence one might argue that what really happens in the lending of something like a coat, or a rake, or a lawnmower, or a car, is that the use DOES consume the lent object, but in such small degree that the lender can willingly overlook it if he pleases. But strictly speaking, the true nature of _equal exchange_ would imply some repayment for the use that (slightly) uses up the object, and thus the argument depending on distinguishing “things which are consumed in use” from “things which are not consumed in use” falls into difficulty.Delete
Perhaps not all of the above difficulties are equally of concern to the Thomistic argument. And there may be answers to some of them that leave the theory intact. But clearly the argument needs a lot of bolstering before it can be considered secure.
What is not in the least difficult is extensions to the concept: if a single individual person makes a loan of $20, he can reasonably ask for $20 back and not ask for more. However, if the Franciscan Order sets up (as a charity operation) a fund of $100 million to use in making mutuum loans, and runs that operation intending it to be a permanent establishment, they would have every right to ask for loans to be repaid not only with the same dollar amounts as lent, but also extras for (a) inflation; (b) for costs of making the loan itself (e.g. investigating the borrower, credit score, etc); and (c) for losses to make up for loans that cannot be repaid and have to be written off. As well as the (d) amounts needed to pay the fund and loan management specialists their daily wage. None of these three additions to the dollars lent would be violations of strict justice in making mutuum loans. But, of course, none of these would amount to profit on making the loans, and after 50 years of running the operation the fund should be in the same position as able to make loans equal in value to the original $100 million, without having anything additional in the fund to treat as profit. It would be only by reason of considerations outside of those of strict justice to consider not charging for the 4 extras above, e.g. such reasons as “optics” i.e. “what it looks like” to unsophisticated observers who are not prepared to reflect on the true state of affairs below the most obvious features, to avoid the APPEARANCE of being like the banks which charge interest as a means of profit.
“Well, if you look at it that way ... it's not even hard to recast a mutuum in those terms.”
On this point I would disagree with English Catholic’s position. If a mutuum was structured such that the payment was made through labor directly to the borrower, this falls under the usury doctrine and similar contracts were historically discussed.
For example say my friend owns a struggling landscaping company and it’s been a dry summer and it is now winter. He comes telling me he is broke and hasn’t had work for over six months. He asks me for a loan of a $2000 to cover his living expenses until spring. He usually charges $50 per mowing and I know it will be awhile before his business will pick up to pay me back. Therefore I say in exchange for the money he promises to provide 40 mowings between my various rental properties come spring. It would be usury to demand 50 for example.
In contrast if I say that the loan will be secured by his old truck should he be unable to complete the work this would not be a mutuum and exacting more than 40 could be licit only if I only have recourse to the truck. In such a contract if he was permanently disabled in a car accident where the truck was totaled I could not exact the original loan amount and only what I could get from the scrap.
Your original example was for a laborer given money for a promise of labor where the amount was "lower compensation than he'd otherwise receive." This would implicitly be unjust even if he were paid after the labor so it was really a non starter.
Given the example of a book advance, I imagine that you are simply not stating the whole of the agreement, namely an advance is given now with some more to be given at the end. As in all of this the actual terms of the agreement are essential for understanding the justice of the exchange.
The signing bonus also depends on the terms of the reception of the bonus. It may be to an extent gratuitous on the part of the employer for the person to sign a work agreement. In any case, that the employer offers to pay the laborer more than the worker is due assuming a just wage apart from the bonus is hardly analogous to a mutuum particularly when it is the laborer promising to do work. Your complaint appears to center around a premise already rejected and undefended.
“The real difference...”
Historically another instance of usury was the case of credit sales, where the lender stipulates that the return not be in kind but in money. So, I give you a roll of silk for a promise of return rather than in kind as a roll of silk in the money price of the silk. Charging more than today’s price was only potentially licit if there were a real doubt about the price increasing at the time of future payment. These were discouraged as offering the danger of hidden usury.
The distinction is that the equivalent of a fungible is by definition unity. The exchange rate for a fungible for itself is always 1. However, one property for another may vary. So ignoring the question begging term “value” for now, $100 is equivalent to $100 by definition.
I draw your attention to my comment of 11/16 12:23pm. I believe it answers your contention that prepayment for labour involves an ownership claim. The timing of the posts is hard to follow so I may have missed it.Delete
"Well, if you look at it that way ... it's not even hard to recast a mutuum in those terms. After all, the lender isn't really interested in the borrower's labor as such. What he wants is a particular defined benefit (the sum of money specified) which, though the borrower is closely involved with, remains distinct from him and can be separated from him, once he's earned it. "
What the lender is interested in in his mind, and what he wants, are irrelevant to the question. As an objective fact, and regardless of his state of mind, his ownership claim is over the borrower as a person. The lender's financial ownership claim does not exist* in actuality; therefore, his claim can only be on the borrower's potentiality.
A societas 'lender' may have the same state of mind, but the objective action is different, and so the evil is not present.
*Which is not a parallel to labour prepayment. This involves no ownership claim, as explained 11/16 12:23pm. By contrast, a lender is claiming interest on what he sees as his investment, his own property.
"For example say my friend owns a struggling landscaping company and it’s been a dry summer and it is now winter. He comes telling me he is broke and hasn’t had work for over six months. He asks me for a loan of a $2000 to cover his living expenses until spring. He usually charges $50 per mowing and I know it will be awhile before his business will pick up to pay me back. Therefore I say in exchange for the money he promises to provide 40 mowings between my various rental properties come spring. It would be usury to demand 50 for example."Delete
It would be "mean" to do that... And now we are touching the original source of the historical anxiety around the issue, namely, the exploitation of the poor and desperate, and the ruination of friendship (see Deuteronomy's treatment - fine for goiim to be lent to at interest, but not your fellow Jew). It's this sense - a correct sense - of justice that, to me, seems to have snowballed into a warped understanding of economics in order to satiate scruples. And I say that with deep respect to the tradition (and people) defending the classical position. But it is the wrong position...
Would love to continue but must depart. Thanks to all for a great conversation!
"I am trying to point out that it is contrary to common sense not to expect payment for rendering a risky non-obligatory service, namely, giving someone a tool to use temporarily."
However, I'm making the point that your common sense simply begs the question. Why exactly should someone be able to charge for risk when risk in and of itself cannot be sold. Charging for the usufruct of a tool is essentially different from a mutuum as I've argued and you are owed something more than the tool back precisely because of the ownership claim you maintain. Risk may be or may not reasonably come into the question when we consider "how much" your claim is worth, but in a mutuum the lender has no property claim.
"For some reason it only applies to money."
I have not claimed this and neither does Aquinas. In fact both of us explicitly state that this can involve any sort of fungible property. In the De Malo Aquinas gives the example of a mutuum of shoes and in the ST a mutuum of a silver cup. Any property can be used up in exchange, but money's principal use is exchange, but has secondary uses such as for show whereas shoes principal use is for wearing and secondarily for exchange.
Thank you because you have brought out clearly and explicitly the problematic reading with Aquinas. The presumption in such readings is that when Aquinas says that the lender sells what does not exist is that he is referring to the wine or money that no longer exists. The implication that Aquinas was so incompotent to realize that money persisted in exchange should give one pause and reconsider one's reading rather than attribute manifestly false premises to one of the greatest intellects to have lived.
The issue is as follows. In a mutuum, all agree that ownership is transferred and that the borrower may consume the property. Since the property can be consumed, this means that there can be no usufruct to the property, or claim to exclusive use, because when the property is consumed both use and being go or usufruct and ownership.
Now as Aquinas notes in the ST and De Malo property can have different uses. So he acknowledges money's principal use is in exchange, but can be used for show or security. However, he notes that a shoe's the principal use of which is to wear has a secondary use by which it can be sunk in exchange. Consequently, there can be a mutuum of shoes and to demand three back for two given is usury.
Now given that property has multiple uses, the property as such is indifferent to what use is to be made of it. It is the terms of the contract that define which use can be made of it and the mutuum explicitly allows for a consumptive use. Whether or not the property is actually consumed is irrelevant to the question, because it is precisely because the property can be consumed that the lender cannot retain the usufruct and thus charge for it.
Now back to the "selling what does not exist." Now most assume this means the object of the property itself. However, in the ST II.II.Q78.A1.ad3 it is precisely the usufruct (a claim against property) that concerns Aquinas and he acknowledges the Roman Law admitted none and one could not exist, but permitted a quasi-usufruct when it permitted usury. That is Roman Law permitted a charge ON the quasi-usufruct. Moreover, in his commentary on Psalm 14, he states that the reason the lender sells what does not exist is because he does not have the usufruct. This is also implied by Q78.A1.ad5 where the lender charges for the usufruct and for what does not exist, namely the usufruct. The selling of what does not exist is the attempt to sell the usufruct which the lender does not have. Consider that in a sale it is not the object as such that you are purchasing but an ownership claim or in a lease you are paying for a temporary usufruct. For this reason in the mutuum, where the borrower gains ownership and may consume it, there is no usufruct against which the lender can charge.
In the example of your father, it depends on the terms of the agreement. If he was personally responsible for return and could consume the money however he wanted, then it was a mutuum and charge more is usury. If on the other hand, the TERMS OF THE CONTRACT give him the authority not to consume the money but to simply show it off (explicitly allowed by Aquinas), then the bank could charge for its use. As I’ve said a number of times, it is the terms of the agreement that matter not the nature of the property and it is property claims rather than the substance of the property that is Aquinas’ concern.
"As an objective fact, and regardless of his state of mind, his ownership claim is over the borrower as a person."Delete
I was not speaking of the lender's state of mind by "what he wants" or "what he's interested in" - I meant the terms of the contract, which are objective facts. The borrower promises to pay a certain sum of money when the term of the loan expires. That's exactly analogous to advance payment for labor. Either both are claims of ownership, or neither is.
Another way of putting it: even a mutuum that doesn't charge interest would, on this account, be akin to slavery. Which is certainly not the traditional position - Aquinas held that in a mutuum, the borrower is obliged in justice to return the principal.
"By contrast, a lender is claiming interest on what he sees as his investment, his own property."
As you said yourself, what the lender thinks is happening is immaterial. The real situation is an exchange of goods that exist at different times. Thinking of a mutuum as anything else is incoherent. (And I grant that the common idea that interest on a mutuum is rent for money is incoherent, for this very reason. Aquinas was right on that, at least.)
"The distinction is that the equivalent of a fungible is by definition unity. The exchange rate for a fungible for itself is always 1. However, one property for another may vary. So ignoring the question begging term “value” for now, $100 is equivalent to $100 by definition."
And with that we leave behind the strange fancies of the Usury FAQ for the real traditional arguments.
First off: it's true that two fungibles of the same kind must have equal value - if they are in the same place, or equally accessible in some way. For then each can be applied to the same ends as the other. But two fungibles in different places, when one is accessible are the other isn't, generally can't be put to the same uses, and hence aren't equivalent. (An extreme example: water is essential for human life - but very large amounts of it become a liability. A district suffering from a flood has much more water than it needs, and would be better off if lots of it were taken away.)
Now I maintain that fungibles that become accessible at different times fail to be equivalent for a similar reason. That is, a future fungible - or, if you prefer, another's obligation to supply a fungible in the future - is and must be strictly less useful than a fungible of the same kind that's available here and now. For any purpose the future good may serve, the present good may also serve, if I simply wait to use it; but the converse is not true. And this isn't just a matter of my opinion - it's an objective fact, implied by the nature of time.
How this applies to a mutuum contract is clear from what has already been said.
"And with that we leave behind the strange fancies of the Usury FAQ for the real traditional arguments."Delete
Having emailed Zippy on occassion he agreed with the quoted point, so I don't know what "fancies" you speak. Zippy's argument in the fact is that since we know from the nature of the mutuum it is naturally gratutious and an act of charity, why are you asking for a different kind of return in the first place? He claims that as a matter of history this was a problem because of hidden usury by playing off of the ambiguity of just price. See Q50.
"For any purpose the future good may serve, the present good may also serve, if I simply wait to use it; but the converse is not true."
The issue is that with the present good he does not give the use he could have made had he maintained access to it. He receives back the equivalent of what he gave with all of its objective powers and anything more is usury.
You raise some important and fundamental points which I had planned to respond to, but didn't have time. Good luck with your STL.
I agree that the example of you give about your friend mowing your lawn -- demanding 50 mows in this example would indeed be usurious. Similarly, paying someone $1000 now to put up a fence, or $1100 in a month's time, would be usurious (all other things being equal).
My understanding of Michael B's argument is that he's discussing prepaying for labour as such, not offering a lower wage now or a higher wage later.
Before we move onto the time value of fungibles, can we resolve our disagreement about whether prepaying for labour involves the same objection as charging for a mutuum? Your argument is well summarised in your comment of 11/15 6:12pm:
"That statement can be paraphrased as a syllogism: In a mutuum the lender claims a property interest in something that exists only potentially; no such property interest is possible, as only actual things can be owned; therefore a mutuum is inherently fraudulent.
"Now my point is that the major premise of that syllogism, that only actual things can be owned, applies outside the context of finance, to contracts that nobody objects to. For instance, an artist working on commission often receives partial payment before starting work. Who thinks that's immoral? Yet it must be, under this assumption."
Your version of the FAQ's argument appears to run as follows:
1. Only actual things can be owned
2. A mutuum involves an ownership claim over something non-actual
3. Therefore a mutuum is fraudulent.
So far so good. Then you add:
4. Prepayment for labour also involves an ownership claim over something non-actual
5. Therefore prepayment for labour is fradulent
As you rightly say, 5 is absurd. Therefore, you say, 1 is false.
But your argument fails. 4 is false. Not every transfer of monies, or other goods, results in an ownership claim, demonstration of which is trivial (gifts, taxes, fines, rent payments, wages, etc). Once we reject this assumption, your objection to Zippy's argument fails.
Of course, 1 might be false for other reasons, but not the one you've raised here.
If you disagree, I'd be interested to hear your argument.
"The borrower promises to pay a certain sum of money when the term of the loan expires. That's exactly analogous to advance payment for labor. Either both are claims of ownership, or neither is."Delete
Just to state the obvious, this is the point I disagree with. Not every payment involves an ownership claim. I claim no ownership over anything when I pay a man, in advance, to work. I am not purchasing property.
With a mutuum, I am acting as though I am purchasing property; I am expecting income from an 'investment', as I would if I had bought some stocks or a rental property. (And of course, the FAQ's claim is that no such property exists, therefore I am acting as though I own shares in a person.)
Do you agree with this distinction I've made between pre-paid wages and a mutuum?
"The issue is that with the present good he does not give the use he could have made had he maintained access to it."Delete
What do you think the word "cost" means? In any exchange whatsoever, each party surrenders whatever use they could have made of the thing they give to the other. The other doesn't receive that use (even the possibility of it vanishes) but the first party has lost it. All costs are, when analyzed, opportunities forgone - the mutuum isn't special in that respect.
"He receives back the equivalent of what he gave with all of its objective powers and anything more is usury."
You are assuming the point I dispute. I deny that a present sum of money (or any other good) and an obligation to pay a numerically equal sum at some future date are equivalent. I assert that the objective powers of the former exceed those of the latter, and therefore the former has greater value.
Address that, if you please.
"Not every transfer of monies, or other goods, results in an ownership claim, demonstration of which is trivial (gifts, taxes, fines, rent payments, wages, etc)."Delete
Every exchange, by definition, transfers (at least) two claims of ownership among the parties - if such transfers are lacking there is no contract. Thus gifts, taxes and fines aren't exchanges, but rents and wages are. And so is a mutuum.
"I claim no ownership over anything when I pay a man, in advance, to work. I am not purchasing property."
What on earth are you purchasing, then? Do you claim that, once the man has finished working to your satisfaction, you do not own the results of his labor?
"With a mutuum, I am acting as though I am purchasing property"
Only in the sense - whatever that is - that you purchase the fruits of labor, when you pay in advance. Can we take it as read from here on that whatever the lender in a mutuum thinks he's doing, he isn't really investing his money?
It may help clarify matters to point out that it's possible to make a mutuum in which money isn't involved at all - say, a sale on credit paid for by a promise to work a specified number of weeks. But it isn't possible, even in theory, to make a mutuum that isn't an exchange across time - or, if you prefer, an exchange of a real thing now for a promise of something later. Offering a sandwich now in exchange for $5 now isn't a mutuum, just a straight-up sale.
"Do you agree with this distinction I've made between pre-paid wages and a mutuum?"
Obviously not. I see no principled way to draw that distinction. Any adequate description of pre-paid wages applies just as much to a mutuum, and it's arbitrary, special pleading, to use the description that sounds evil for one and withhold it from the other. They are, at base, of the same kind.
I remind you that Aquinas says only the interest in a mutuum is payment for the nonexistent. By the argument above, it's the lender, not the borrower, who has paid for something that doesn't exist, which would make the borrower guilty of fraud. As Aquinas draws just the opposite conclusion, that can't be what he was thinking.
"Opportunity cost" like "time value of money" is question begging at worst and misleading at best. That it is referred to as a "cost" begs the question if it is in fact something like acquisition costs, which involve real costs of property payments.
"All costs are, when analyzed, opportunities forgone..."
Even if all costs (taken equivocally) can be analyzed as opportunities forgone this fails to prove that all opportunities forgone, or even those related to mutua, are costs (taken in the unequivocally relevant sense) justifying a charge.
"I assert that the objective powers of the former exceed those of the latter, and therefore the former has greater value."
As a matter of definition, the objective powers of what is given are the same as those received in return. You wish to insist that the never-to-exist future uses be paid for as well, though the lender does not give these. With a question begging equivocation you claim he "surrenders" these which is true in a sense, but not in the relevant sense that he exchanges these with the borrower.
I've addressed this point up thread and putting the same assertions into different obfuscating and question begging terms does not change the weakness of the argument.
"My understanding of Michael B's argument is that he's discussing prepaying for labour as such, not offering a lower wage now or a higher wage later."
I haven't followed your comments closely, but I believe you are correct. He essentially accepts slavery as licit (at November 14, 2018 at 5:40 PM) and only finds it nominally disagreeable. His comment here:
"By the argument above, it's the lender, not the borrower, who has paid for something that doesn't exist, which would make the borrower guilty of fraud."
Only shows that he continues to not understand the terms of the agreement. A prepayment of labor agreement may be structured as a mutuum, but this is irrelevant to the argument. He continually begs the question by asserting that the employer is committing slavery rather than exchanging for a promise to perform labor as manifest by the terms of the agreement.
"Even if all costs (taken equivocally) can be analyzed as opportunities forgone this fails to prove that all opportunities forgone, or even those related to mutua, are costs (taken in the unequivocally relevant sense) justifying a charge."Delete
Do tell me what the two senses of "cost" are that I've confused.
I'll give an example of what I mean. When a man trades a durable good, he gives up all rights to use that good in the future - that is, every use he would otherwise have made of it. And this is the whole of what he surrenders. Enumerate all those things that might have been, and nothing more of value is left.
"You wish to insist that the never-to-exist future uses be paid for as well"
No, not "as well". That would imply there's some difference between the powers and the future uses. In fact the two can't be separated.
No, the point is that the potentials of an object that can be realized vary according to what agents are present and capable of acting on it. So, for instance, a hammer in front of you and a hammer in front of me are not equivalent, because you are not me and what you can do with a hammer is not what I can do with it.
On the specific point, I do not say that interest on a mutuum is a separate charge for an "opportunity cost" that's somehow separate from giving up the principal. That would be nonsense. Giving up the principal just is the "opportunity cost". I said that the money lent at the start of a mutuum's term, and the money paid at the end, are not equivalent in value. They can't be used for the same ends, because they are not both physically present (barring special cases in which the borrower has no intention of spending the money, of course.)
"He continually begs the question by asserting that the employer is committing slavery rather than exchanging for a promise to perform labor as manifest by the terms of the agreement."
Not at all. I said that the argument that usury is like slavery necessarily implies that prepayment of labor is like slavery. The point of that was just that the Usury FAQ gets the traditional position wrong.
Slavery, by the way, is immoral because it necessarily subverts the slave's will and denies his moral agency. A slave is not held accountable for his actions, as a free man is, but merely used as a tool.
Aquinas actually argues that usury is a specific form of fraud - that, if you match the original sum lent against the repaid principal, all the value that the lender gave up has been accounted for, and what's left over - the interest - is paid for nothing. That, not any fancy about buying shares in people, is what he meant when he said the lender sells what doesn't exist.
Now that argument turns on a silver coin now and a silver coin next year being equivalent. Nothing beyond that is needed, but it does need that. Therefore that's the only point worth discussing.
"Do tell me what the two senses of "cost" are that I've confused."Delete
For example, there is a real sense of "cost" when a man marries this particular woman and this can be analyzed as an opportunity cost, because he forgoes the relationships or marriage with other women. However, a husband cannot exact more from his wife for the enjoyment of those other relationships foregone.
Even if you consider only property costs, this still fails. That a cost that can justify a charge can be analyzed as an opportunity forgone does not imply that opportunities forgone are costs that can justify a charge.
"When a man trades a durable good, he gives up all rights to use that good in the future - that is, every use he would otherwise have made of it."
This is simply a continued reassertion of what you've said previously. Today he does not have a claim over the thing as it will be in the future, because the future is not. His claim is over the thing now as it is now. His claim does persist into the future, but it only exists in the present. He cannot give his future non-existent claim, because even if the good is durable it is contingent and may not even exist in the next moment.
"No, the point is that the potentials of an object that can be realized vary according to what agents are present and capable of acting on it."
The problem is that the future powers of the thing do not exist now when you give it. The fact that they can (if it persists to that point it time) realize them in future simply does not mean the object at present either has the power to act on the future as such or contains the power of acting and being it will have should it continue to exist. The lender simply does not give now the not-existing-now future powers of the property.
If we want to shift to the ends to be achieved, the lender does not give the ends-to-be-achieved, because they are - precisely as "to be achieved" - not existent. He does not give them. He gives ownership of an object with a particular teleology, but he doesn't give the realization of the telos which has not yet been realized.
Again, putting the argument into the terms of Aristotelian physics does not change the weakness of a claim to selling what does not exist or what the lender does not have to charge for.
I fear, Mr. Humpherys, that you have wandered into an irrelevant digression and lost sight of the actual point. Let us begin again, from first principles. Defend, if you can, the proposition that X now and the promise of X next year are things of equal value. Every argument against usury depends on that, and I have yet to see it argued for.Delete
I'm not sure of the value (pun intended) of this conversation at this juncture. My argument has been the same as it was several comments ago, that fungibles are equivalents in exchange. You have disputed this based on the lender giving, surrendering, etc. in an equivocal sense all sorts of thing that do not exist. The fact that the lender values more what was given in light of his never-to-be-realized expectations doesn't change the fact that he receives back what he gave.Delete
I did more than that. But I'll give you another example of two fungibles which aren't equivalent in value, despite being physically identical.Delete
Consider ice at different times of the year. A chunk of ice has the same physical properties no matter when it exists, including the propensity to melt and absorb heat. But in winter those properties have very little use - absorbing heat, in fact, can be positively dangerous. In summer, OTOH, ice becomes very useful indeed.
So two blocks of ice, one in winter, the other in summer, belong to the same kind, which according to you would make them equivalent in value. And yet manifestly they are not equivalent. Time and place do affect value after all - we can't facilely assume that they're immaterial when it comes to money. But the argument against usury depends on just that assumption ...
All sorts of extrinsic circumstances may impact in different ways whether the property gained or lost value. However, the borrower cannot be held accountable in justice for the varying circumstances that the lender experiences. He is bound to return the amount given.Delete
In the FAQ, Q45 and Q53 are relevant as well as: https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/each-breath-will-cost-you-a-nickel/
Q45 and Q53 are not relevant to the issue I raised - they're about hedging against price changes over time. What I'm talking about would be an issue even in the "economic equilibrium" where all prices are stable because nothing unexpected ever happens.Delete
Again: Aquinas assumes that the sum the lender gives at the start of a mutuum's term, and the principal part of the sum the borrower pays at the end, are necessarily equivalent in value, leaving no value over to balance the interest. This is not a safe assumption - there are any number of fungibles, other than money, with values that naturally vary across time and space. That $100 now and $100 next year are of equal value must itself be argued for.
Merely in passing (it makes no difference to the argument) preserving capital against the ravages of time actually is a service for which people are paid - it's the essence of what investment bankers do.
Also in passing - Zippy mentions in his preface that the 2008 mortgage crisis started him on research into usury. However, none of the financial instruments in that crisis actually were usurious, by the traditional definition. The basic loans were home mortgages, non-recourse loans secured by collateral. And the derivative securities were loans between institutions, in which no one was personally guaranteeing payment - so even if they were full-recourse, they didn't qualify as usury.
This will be my last comment so you may have the last word.
You may wish to question your assumption that the mutuum demands a return in value rather than return in kind, where "value" is taken in some relevant sense. Everything you have pointed to is extrinsic to the property given when it is the property and its intrinsic qualities that are taken as fungible by the contract and therefore interchangeable and equivalent in the same quality and quantity.
"Merely in passing (it makes no difference to the argument) preserving capital against the ravages of time actually is a service for which people are paid"
Exactly and the borrower is not paid for this even though the lender receives back the same quality though had he kept it it would have experienced the ravages of time.
"The basic loans were home mortgages, non-recourse loans secured by collateral."
By easy research this is shown to be false. In my home state and many others during the crisis, home mortgages that are collateralized by the house are still full-recourse. There exist such things as deficiency judgements where the lender has recourse to the person of the borrower should the collateral be insufficient to cover the principal. To invoke Pope Callistus III, the lender is illicitly empowered to obtain back his principal even if the property is utterly destroyed.
Solid article and good analogy with scientific theories at the end!ReplyDelete
I wrote a response to the article on limbo you linked to. I would be interested to hear your thoughts, Dr. Feser. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/06/14/the-catechism-is-right-we-do-not-need-limbo/ReplyDelete
The argument here presented claims that God's mercy gives us reason to think that God gives the children sanctifying grace and the beatific vision. Now, this is certainly a reasonable thing to hope for, as the Catechism points out. Moreover, given that we know God is love, this conclusion ought not to be dismissed lightly. Perhaps the fact that so few in Church history have thought that unbaptized babies are saved is a result of an unfortunate dismissal of a weighty argument (viz. the argument you present in the article).Delete
That said, we have to be cautious in presenting an argument of this sort. If God's character strictly entailed that he save unbaptized babies, it would then follow that the supernatural order is not entirely gratuitous. Additionally, it would seem to imply that God is such that he must create rational creatures capable of the beatific vision. For if God's character entails he save the unbaptized babies, how can there be a possible world in which God creates man but doesn't elevate him to the supernatural order? Or a possible world in which God does not create man at all?
Can we not just call heresy heresy, and a spade a spade? I think it is not constructive to view the mentioned examples isolated from their context, be it limbus or empty hell. What I mean is: The Nouvelle Théologie was a movement directly opposed to Thomism, and Scholasticism (as well as their "neo" variants). Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and even Joseph Ratzinger, heavily criticized Thomism as a stiff, and even dead system that cannot give answers to hodiernal questions. Also they claimed that Thomism ignored history and the development of dogma. Nouvelle Théologie is the reincarnation of the 19th century Modernism, in this new variant called Neo-Modernism. The exact same (and may I add: crazy) heresy that Pius X so valiantly fought against. When von Balthasar argues that Hell might be empty, he does not do it as an adherent to the traditional Catholic doctrine, but he does it in direct defiance thereof. When a theologian speaks, he does not speak objective words of Truth, but he can only speak from his own point of view - in this case the heretical Nouvelle Théologie, expressively condemned by Pius XII under the influence of Saint Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange.ReplyDelete
But letting that aside, how could a Catholic accept an "official theology" that does not explain dogma, but seems to contradict it?! This might not per se be heresy, but at the very least skandalon, or proxima haeresi.
To accept this view means to accept Modernism with its sentence that every time needs to find its own ways of expressing the Church's doctrine - which is opposed to the beautiful clause: "eodem sensu eademque sententia": Theological comments are obligated to represent dogma "in the same meaning and in the same sense" as it is understood by the perennial teaching of the Church. Transsubstantiation does not mean Transfinalisation or Transsignification. Hell exists, and there are souls in there. The Catholic religion is the only true religion, and no one who stands outside of Holy Mother Church can attain the forgiveness of sins, nor life eternal.
What pertains to limbus, there is no definite answer. Limbus has never been part of the Church's teaching. To suppose that there is a place like limbus, is recommended by the Church (as many older dogmatic manuals attest), and to reject it is seen as foolish. Nevertheless, a theological discussion may occur, and is encouraged by the Church. To say there was no limbus is still very different to saying hell was empty.
This posts reads like sarcasm to me. "Saint" G-L? Lol, okay brah.Delete
Complaining about Von Balthasar is so tedious.ReplyDelete
God gives sufficient grace to all men to be saved. Contra the heresy of Calvin the Church teaches Sufficient Grace is truely sufficient so that salvation is a real possibility for the recipiant. So it's not a stretch to conclude because all men recieve sufficient grace then salvation for all men is a real possibility. Now unlike the true heresy of Universalism one cannot say it is an absolute certainty & Hell is still a real possibility. One need not say it is likely everyone will be saved. Also "realistic" isn't a term of Art in theology. Certainly if one can hope for one's own salvation (without being absolutely certain about it as Baptists claim) then I really don't see the problem with merely hoping that everybody is saved? I think people get too butthurt over Von Balthasar when they should acknowledge in his speculations one can still go to Hell. Indeed under Von Balthasar's scheme there is no reason why everbody could be saved but moi so there is no reason to presume.
In the end Presumption or Dispair will lead us to Hell. As to wither the number of saved will excede the number of the damned. We are not meant to know IMHO dispite the majority opinion being that the majority of humanity will be lost.
You are part of a search and rescue for lost Catholics.ReplyDelete
“Other examples could be given, but these three – the rejection of the idea of limbo, the affirmation of the pluralistic non-confessional state as a positive good, and the “empty hell” hypothesis – provide a representative sample. Here are three observations about them. First, and again, none of these ideas is magisterial teaching, and no Catholic is obligated to agree with them. “ReplyDelete
The doctrine of the Limbo of Infants was sufficiently “magisterial” for unbaptised infants to be buried in unconsecrated ground. That makes perfect sense, since it was taught (surely rightly) that as they had not been baptised, they had not been cleansed of original sin, and were therefore incapable of inheriting Heaven.
Limbo makes sense, and the rejection of the doctrine was condemned. See Father Brian Harrison for the details: http://www.seattlecatholic.com/a051207.html
There are no polite words for those, like Ratzinger in his 1984 Report, or the Theological Commission in 2007, who try to magic Limbo away merely because it has never been defined. It has been taught, theologised about, and has had real effects on the lives of Catholics, so it cannot be untaught or unbelieved just because it embarrasses some people today.
The eagerness of the Church’s rulers to dilute or unsay uncomfortable or unecumenical Catholic doctrines & practices, is truly appalling. If the Church is ashamed of teaching and practicing her traditional Faith, what are Catholics supposed to do ? Where are they to go for Catholic teaching ? The following words seem to be all too applicable to the CC - especially the citation from C. S. Lewis:
“The C of E might be healthier if it took the trouble to ensure that its clergy all believed all of what the Creed says. It is ridiculous, and far worse than merely ridiculous, to have vicars who don’t believe in (say) the Resurrection of Christ. If clergy do not believe, but retain their parishes and cures, they are thieves, frauds, and liars – as is the Church that inflicts them on Christians. Is that the sort of person whom the C of E thinks fit to be in the clergy, and to be ministers of God’s grace ? It is a long time since C. S. Lewis remarked on the oddity of a layman finding out that he believes more than his vicar. A Church of unbelieving clergy is not equipped to preach a Gospel it does not believe.”
Clergy and religious, regardless of rank or dignity, who do not accept, whole-heartedly & sincerely, the entirety of the traditional Faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, should be excommunicated as a matter of course. And in the case of clergy, not merely laicised, but publicly degraded from all their orders.
What the Church seems to need, is the restoration of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition, to stamp out, repress & extirpate all heresy by all clergy & religious whatsoever, without fear or favour. The abolition of religious orders and communities that no longer perform their intended function might be a good first step.
The close of Fr. Harrison’s article is particularly interesting:ReplyDelete
“It should be clear from the above survey of relevant Catholic magisterial statements that those who now talk about Limbo as only ever having been a mere "hypothesis", rather than a doctrine, are giving a very misleading impression of the state of the question. They are implying by this that the pre-Vatican II Church traditionally held, or at least implicitly admitted, that an alternate 'hypothesis' for unbaptized infants was their attainment of eternal salvation — Heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. Limbo for unbaptized infants was indeed a theological "hypothesis"; but the only approved alternate hypothesis was not Heaven, but very mild hellfire as well as exclusion from the beatific vision! In short, while Limbo as distinct from very mild hellfire was a 'hypothetical' destiny for unbaptized infants, their eternal exclusion from Heaven (with or without any 'pain of sense') — at least after the proclamation of the Gospel, and apart from the 'baptism of blood' of infants slaughtered out of hatred for Christ — this was traditional Catholic doctrine, not a mere hypothesis. No, it was never dogmatically defined. But the only question is whether the doctrine was infallible by virtue of the universal and ordinary magisterium, or merely "authentic".
Recommended reading: Fr. Le Blanc's articles, "Childrens' Limbo: Theory or Doctrine?", American Ecclesiastical Review, September 1947, and "Salut des enfants morts sans baptéme", Ami du Clergé, January 15, 1948, pp. 33-43. (At that time, the liberal theologians criticized by Fr. Le Blanc were beginning for the first time in Church history to raise the possibility of Heaven for all unbaptized infants — a totally novel hypothesis which was soon censured by the Holy Office under Pope Pius XII as unsound and "without foundation".)”
So is (iii) part of the universal and ordinary magesterium? I sense equivocation in the definition of (iii) between private opinion/theological speculation and ordinary/universal magesterium. If it's the latter, then it follows that the church is teaching heresy.ReplyDelete
Also, how is "tradition" in (i) different from authoritative magisterial teaching (ii)?
I think Limbo is clearly a theory and not a doctrine. The Council of Trent had the opportunity to declare it's existence dogmatically but it didn't materialize. Also the Church has formally allowed speculations that God somehow saves un-baptized infants in some extra-ordinary manner. One book I have on the subject suggests Limbo might be emptied at the Second Coming.ReplyDelete
The church is not against the idea God can give some type of extra-ordinary grace to an infant to expunge his or her state of original sin but the error that original sin was not an impediment to recieving the beatific vision is what was at issue. Even Aquinas speculated God could make a way to salvation for infants who died during miscarrage (after ensoulment).
Certainly prudence guided many of the Popes in suppressing this view since if one is wrong about Limbo existing no harm is done in insisting infants be baptized. If one is wrong about Limbo not existing then clearly it does great harm to neglect baptizing them.
As for the charge of "novelty" well wasn't the idea of ensoulment at conception a "novelty" in that it wasn't taught before science showed human being recieved their seed form at conception with sperm and ovum and not months later when blood and semen formed into a human seed form according to the now discredited science.
Limbo does show us God doesn't owe us Heaven so that is an argument for belief in it. OTOH God does will the salvation of all so why would he refuse it to those who do not resist it?
I agree with Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. There isn't likey a Limbo but when I had my first born I acted as thought it existed ready to baptise my daughter in the Hospital at even the slightest hint she might be in danger.
It's a win win view.
Ed, I like the guy, but given how his polemic works in the long essay it's very hard for me to see how much of this is accurate and how much of this is him trying to do mind reading.ReplyDelete
I know this is off topic, but can anyone point me to any books/articles, etc. that elaborate on the Thomist account of brain damage/mental retardation, and so forth?ReplyDelete
Maybe I'm an idiot or something but I STILL can't understand this. Let's talk about say, the extremes of Isaac Newton and 'Charley' at the beginning of Flowers for Algernon. What accounts for their difference? Is it a material difference? If so, how can that be given the Thomist claim that the intellect is an immaterial power? I understand that on the Aristotelian account the intellect depends on qualia to abstract universals from particulars. Okay. Is the claim that qualia are being affected somehow? I'm baffled.
Hope that all might be saved is condemned:ReplyDelete
1. Predestination is dogma
2. 1459 Pius II condemned "All Christians are to be saved"
Look no further than the collapse of penitential life to see the evil caused by these influential thoughts.
Couldn't 2 refer to the idea that mere belief doesn't give absolute certainty about ones salvation?Delete
And I thought Catholics explicitly condemn the idea that some are predestined to hell?
A text without a context is a pretext.ReplyDelete
Pius II also condemned the follow as well.
"That the world should be naturally destroyed and ended by the heat of the sun consuming the humidity of the land and the air in such a way that the elements are set on fire."
Commentary: So the Sun won't become a Red Giant? That seems implausible?
"That God created another world than this one, and that in its time many other men and women existed and that consequently Adam was not the first man."
Commentary: Yet Cardinal Nicolas of Cuza openly speculated rational men might exist on other celestial spheres without condemnation? So we can't believe in Aliens or multiverse theory by dogma?
Anyway Pius II was condemning a set of doctrinal propositions put forth by one Zanini de Solcia. Unless we know it was he was specifically teaching then we should take these condemnations with a grain of salt. After all the proposion ""All Christians are to be saved" is ambiguous. Is it saying Solina knows God will save all? Does it mean there is no potential at all for damnation? It it actually condemning the hope for the salvation of all (because that sounds like Calvinism?) or the dogmatic certainty all will be saved?
Also based on the "no hope for the salvation of all" proposition the Fatima Jesus Prayer is clearly heterodox.
So I remain skeptical.
That's the problem I have. So enthusiastic to condemn Von Balthazar it turns out they give a leg up to Calvin.ReplyDelete
But here is the thing they don't understand. Von Balthazar's view is not heretical. It does superfically resemble a heresy but get this a followerer of Báñez might hold views that superficially resemble Calvinism but that doesn't make 'em a Calvinist or a heretic. For example Calvin believed all Grace was irresistible which leads to the heresy of so called "eternal secutity" (or as Trent Called it the vain confidence of the heretics). But a follower of Báñez does believe efficacious grace is irresistable in so much that it infallibly causes the recipiant to make an salutary act. But unlike the Calvinist, the follower of Báñez believes mere sufficient grace is resistable.
Von Balthazar's view still makes Hell possible and at best all you can do is hope for the salvation of all. But there is no absolute certainty one finds in the heresies of true Universalism or Calvinism.
The citation by Pius II I don't think is worth anything. Text without a context and all that....
First, there is a difference in meaning between saying there is a realistic hope that all may be saved and saying that one may hope that all may be saved. Are you sure von Balthasar advocates the former and not simply the latter? In any case, neither position is heretical, so it's tough beans for anyone who doesn't like them.ReplyDelete
Second, if qualified universalism is "foreign to the Catholic tradition," then you have an impoverished view of the Catholic tradition. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Isaac the Syrian, possibly Maximus the Confessor, and of course von Balthasar and many 20th century theologians maintain some form of qualified universalism (and if you bring up the condemnations of Origen, note that they do not condemn universalism per se, but that form of it which attaches to the notion of pre-existent souls).You also have lots of traditional prayers that implore one to pray for the salvation of all. If you don't presently pray for the salvation of all, Dr. Feser, why don't you do so? You don't have the excuse that such a prayer is not in the "spirit of the tradition."
Moreover, no one who believes in qualified universalism denies the urgency and need to fulfill the Great Commission. It's actually the "full hell" hypothesis that is hard to square with the call to evangelize. There doesn't seem to be much point in sharing the Gospel if you believe the vast majority of those to whom you share it with are going to be roasting in the next life. The "full hell" hypothesis induces acedia and is what produced, in part, neurotics like Martin Luther and doctrines like double predestination. Because you're not God, stop pretending to be a demographer of the afterlife. Just leave hell as a mystery and a real possibility to avoid, pray that all may be saved, and leave it at that. I've never understood the stubborn, frothing insistence and orgasmic relish with which certain Christians proclaim that hell is full to bursting. Good flipping luck winning over many converts that way.
No Catholic is obligated to endorse either personalism or the nouvelle théologie, but the fact that two popes widely admired among faithful Catholics were influenced by these movements has given them enormous prestige and influence within Catholicism.ReplyDelete
It is a shameful and shocking thing that Catholic priests, nay even prelates, did not run screaming and shaking from the name nouvelle théologie. In principle, NOVELTY has no place in Catholic theology. The novelty-purveyors should have been shamed out of the public. All one can say of the few like Benedict is that they tended to limit the nonsense to a minimal few areas, and in the main just believed in Catholicism. As for von Balthasar, better if all his works were lost than that they continue to influence people into accepting the nouvelle théologie school as a whole.
At one point in time the St Pius V liturgy was "new" as was the Fatima prayer. This anti-novelty dogma of Trads is itself ironically a novelty by it's own standards. Von Balthasar's speculations are not problematic except for dishonest extremists who enjoy fallacies of equivocation in their polemics. If Von Balthasar's views can lead to corruption and misunderstanding then should not Báñez be censored because of his views superficial similarity to Calvinism?Delete
Novelty is the foundation of Catholic Theology what doesn't have a place is outright heresy like unconditional Universalism or double predestination.
You would have been the first to condemn Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, given how novel his project was at the time. One age's novelty is another's tradition. I suggest you read more about the history of theology, if only to prevent you from making embarrassing remarks like the one above again.Delete
By the way, von Balthasar is one of several writers who have caused me to consider converting to the Catholic Church, so if his writings were lost, I may never have converted. You're just filled with foot-in-mouth ironic declarations, aren't you!
The issue is not the evil of newness but rather the emergence of new whatevers (doctrine or practice) that contradict the tradition.Delete
The "liturgy of Pope St Pius V" was nothing other than the legal codification of the recieved Roman Rite already in existence. It was new by ecclesiastical law, not by custom. The Fatima prayer contradicts nothing nothing either. The "lead all souls to Heaven" is supernatural hope in God - ie that He give them all they need to reach Him; a pious aspiration of the soul. It is not a naive human hope that all will be saved. Naturally speaking, we have no hope for those outside the Church.
I've never understood the stubborn, frothing insistence and orgasmic relish with which certain Christians proclaim that hell is full to bursting.ReplyDelete
On the one hand, I have never understood the sheer chutzpah it takes to set aside Christ's own dicta about hell and its population, and insist (with stubborn, frothing impatience and orgiastic defiance, if you will) that it ain't so.
On the other hand, I have rarely if ever observed anything like "orgasmic relish" in a true and respectable Catholic insisting on taking Christ's comment as reliable. (I have seen it, mind you, in the faces of some fundamentalist Protestants, but then they are heretics and so one does not go to them for Truth.) What I have seen, though, in those of sound religion, is grave worry and concern for our fellow humans, and great dismay (or even disgust) at the frothing foolishness who choose to set aside Christ's comment on frivolous or ridiculous grounds (or on the basis of novel religious theories that turn 2000 years of Catholic sentiment on its head) and blithely assume that the quality of divine "niceness" precludes hell being populated at all.
While one may indeed hope that the "many" in Christ's words can be taken in a relative way, so that it might pan out to something like the "many" of, say, several dozen, to assume so, and even to insist that the words are simply empty of meaning and that it must be so is indeed the height of foolish arrogance. A quiet reserve on the exact demographics of the afterlife, and a careful acceptance of Christ's sayings and St. Paul's "fear and trembling" are good: we don't need to know exactly how these work out to pursue salvation, but we do need to take them seriously.
>On the one hand, I have never understood the sheer chutzpah it takes to set aside Christ's own dicta about hell...Delete
Don't you mean your interpretation of Christ's dicta? Cause the Church speaks for Christ and Christ warns us of the danger of Hell & if I believe Von Balthazar and take him at his word Hell is still a possibility under his unique scheme and valid speculations. The Church says the Fallen Angels are in Hell but we have no reverse canonization that tells us if anyone else it there (including Judas).
Petty arguments over wither or not Von Balthazar's critics are motivated by a secret desire to enjoy the possible damnation of people & secretly rejoice in themselves being elect are tedious.
The bottom line is this. We don't know who is in Hell. We are all in danger of going there even under Von Balthazar's scheme. We must not presume nor despair even under the scheme that says the majority of the human race will go to Hell. We must also remember even under Von Balthazar's scheme everybody could be saved but one's self. God doesn't owe us Heaven. That is the point of Grace.
Cheers Tony. Happy Thanksgiving.
Indeed. I would say a theological opinion, even if it not be dogma, if it is held by the majority of Catholic intellectuals throughout Church history and Scripture seems to strongly suggested it, binds the Catholic to it as a common opinion.Delete
For tradition is always binding, from infallible pronouncements down to received pious beliefs (such as that St Joseph was assumed into Heaven.) The only difference is the latter is weak in force whereas the former is strong. It is sheer pride to reject it. In theology, novel opinions that contradict traditional ones are instantly to be held as suspect and certainly not to be allowed to become widespread. The only possible result is grave danger to the Faith, as we see everywhere today.
The Church says the Fallen Angels are in Hell but we have no reverse canonization that tells us if anyone else it there (including Judas).Delete
We must always be careful to distinguish 2 separate positions. One is that of "we know the identity of (some of) the people in hell", the other is "without knowing which ones, we know that hell will have some (human) inhabitants." Refuting the former does not imply refuting the latter. And using the falseness of the former as an argument against the latter is, likewise, a bad argument. But this is one of von Balthasar's arguments.
Petty arguments over wither or not Von Balthazar's critics are motivated by a secret desire to enjoy the possible damnation of people & secretly rejoice in themselves being elect are tedious.
And yet von Balthasar himself makes an issue of it: "It can be taken as a motif running through the history of theology that, whenever one fills hell with a massa damnata of sinners, one also, through some kind of conscious or unconscious trick (perhaps cautiously, and yet reassuredly), places oneself on the other side."
This is complete poppycock, and yet vB stoops to such a provably false ad hominem against St. Augustine and other saints in urging his novel theory.
& if I believe Von Balthazar and take him at his word Hell is still a possibility under his unique scheme and valid speculations.
Unhappily, vB's own position is ambiguous, or (possibly) even self-contradictory. On the one hand, he wishes to maintain the theoretical possibility of damnation. On the other hand, he urges theological hypotheses that - if true - could not even possibly leave room for even one human damned: "Whoever reckons with the possibility of even only one person's being lost besides himself is hardly able to love unreservedly."
This position is incompatible with the possibility of damnation. Perhaps vB only urges it as a *theological speculation*? Well, if so, why then does he (somewhat uncharacteristically) use such strenuous polemics against those whose theology is incompatible with this speculative notion (including the Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine)?
Perhaps the most charitable thing to say about vB's argument is he is pointing out that the language in the Gospels is ambiguous enough to encompass two different theologies, one that interprets Christ to be saying some will be damned, and the other interprets Christ to be saying only that it is theoretically possible for some to be damned, though in fact it need happen to none. This attempt, though, would have it that vB admittedly chooses to ignore the Church's own developed theology that DEALS WITH the ambiguity and takes the former position. It is one thing to note the ambiguity in the Gospel text itself. It is another thing entirely to pretend that such ambiguity can never be resolved this side of heaven, even by the Church.
Don't you mean your interpretation of Christ's dicta?Delete
Well, I would prefer to stick to the Church's stance. vB himself uses arguments drawn from private revelation, and so it is not unfair to use the same against him: many saints had private revelations that explicitly place many people in hell. What I would add is that the Fatima visions have the Blessed Mother explicitly telling the 3 children that many go to hell, and that (unlike the private revelations vB relies on) the Church herself has approved these visions as "worthy of belief", which she does not do with visions having bad theology. But more certainly (since none are required to believe in even the Fatima visions): when a Council Father asked to have one of the documents of Vatican II altered to be explicit that there are some who will be in hell, he was told (in rejection) not that his position is wrong, but that the document already does that implicitly: "In no. 48 there are cited the words of the Gospel in which the Lord Himself speaks about the damned in a form which is grammatically future." I.E. not grammatically conditional.
It is true that the Church has not explicitly rendered the statement "there will be some humans in hell" as dogmatically defined. But she has taught it non-dogmatically all the same. The places in which both the saints and Church teachings assert it, explicitly or implicitly, are too numerous to cite.
See this article for an extremely balanced treatment of vB's position.
This reminds me of some academic literature I read on Nestorius which asked the question "Was Nestorius a Nestorian?" Some questioning wither or not he really did hold the heresy that bore his name or some primitive Chalcedonian theology that was in spirit orthodoxy? I've met some Trads who hold this view on Fr. Feeney not being a true Feeneyite unlike his followers (denying Baptism by desire as well as denying God might save some of the invincibly ignorant among the Non-Catholics).
As I read Van Balthazar as he was interpreted by Dulles or Barron I will take him to be teaching theoretical Universalism(one which allows damnation as a true possibility) not true Universalism which we all know is a clearly condemned heresy. I have no reason to believe otherwise and I would not want to advocate the condemned view of Universalism. Indeed to clarify I don't advocate theoretical Universalism I simply note with Cardinal Dulles
that it is not contrary to the Faith.
>And yet von Balthasar himself makes an issue of it: "It can be taken as a motif..etc..
From that great and fair article you linked too (thank you for that BTW)it seemed much of his personalized polemics where retaliation against his harsher critics. Thought I should point out as a matter of history such polemics have always been used. The Jansenist where called "Pious as Angels and as Proud as Devils". Neo-Augustinian and Jansenist critics of the doctrine of Limbo where stylized as "Tormentors of Infants".
Such personal attacks where always common & maybe in some cases justified satire but for the most part we can do without it. Though being me I cannot promise I will follow my own advice.;-)
>We must always be careful to distinguish 2 separate positions. One is that of "we know the identity of (some of) the people in hell", the other is "without knowing which ones, we know that hell will have some (human) inhabitants."
At best we know three names of fallen Angels (Satan, Asmodeus and Beaazebub) but we know they are there. Does the Church really teach there are objectively right now people in Hell? I don't think so but I think there are people in Hell but I wouldn't mind merely hoping it is empty. But I cannot and will not presume on that if only for the sake of my own soul.
>Refuting the former does not imply refuting the latter. And using the falseness of the former as an argument against the latter is, likewise, a bad argument. But this is one of von Balthasar's arguments.
Maybe but I am not sure we have a dogma that says there are now people in Hell?
>vB himself uses arguments drawn from private revelation, and so it is not unfair to use the same against him...
I don't know about that? Private Revelations are judged on their doctrinal content above all. For example a so called vision of Our Lady claiming there is a fouth person in the Trinity would be condemned. I think the point is the Fatima Prayer that prays for the salvation of all is not judged doctrinally erroneous. If the salvation of all is not possible and that is the Church's teaching then the Fatma prayer should have been condemned. But it wasn't.
The term "realistic" isn't a term of art. If by realistic do they mean I would bet money on it that it turns out to be true(assuming such an act of gambling is not profane)? No I would not.ReplyDelete
I know as a matter of dogma that sufficient grace is truly sufficient so somehow in some mysterious way salvation is a real possibility for the recipient and that is true even if the person is not a recipient of efficacious grace.
So if something is a real possibility then how is it not "realistic" in some sense?
Anyway hope for as much salvation as possible but fear divine justice too. It's not hard.
Find me a universalist of the kind I spoke of who "insists" and "assumes" the things you attribute to him. I've never met one in writing or in person. But I have encountered plenty of Christians, including Catholics, who react with disappointment and indignation when presented with the idea that hell may be empty, for which one is permitted to hope. They find the idea positively distasteful. A quiet reserve on the demographics of the afterlife is most certainly not what I was referring to. Look at Miles's comment above for something close to what I mean.ReplyDelete
By the way, if you're so confident of the perspicuousness of Christ's words, you might see what actual universalist writers have to say on that verse and others. You might just learn something.
Are the majority going to be saved? Or is it a sizable minority? Or might God find a way to save everyone in terms of a qualified universalism?ReplyDelete
My answer would be that we are not meant to know on this side of Heaven or Hell.
If we knew with absolute certainty the majority would be saved we would be tempted to presumption. If we knew with absolute certainty the majority would be damned we would be tempted to despair. If we knew with absolute certainty all would be saved that would be presumption on crack!
So we don't know. Are not meant to know and are reduced to Hope which is better.
If we knew with absolute certainty the majority would be damned we would be tempted to despair.Delete
Why? If I knew with absolute certainty that 51% of all humans were going to go to hell, and that 49% would end up going to heaven ... I would want to make sure I am in the 49%. Likewise if the ratio was 60 - 40. Or 70 - 30, or 80 - 20. And, frankly, if the ratio were 20 - 80. Hope doesn't depend on a specific ratio or range. But note, also, that the conclusion doesn't critically rest on the "absoluteness" of that absolute certainty. I would have the same result if the assurance were more like "we have a strong indication" or "we have inconclusive evidence amounting to high probability" or several other modes of concluding short of absolute certainty.
What do you mean by "absolute certainty"? If the Church had asked you, in 1949, "do you believe with absolute certainty that Mary was assumed into heaven", would you have said yes? The funny thing about teachings that have been taught by the Ordinary Magisterium as infallible only take on that character of infallibility with the retrospect of large amounts of time and confirmation over the range of the Church's bishops, and thus the realization that they have been taught infallibly can be indistinct. Whereas the teaching in 1950 by Pope Pius XII that Mary was assumed into heaven was infallible under the extraordinary Magisterial act of the Pope in an ex cathedra pronouncement, and after that event every (educated) Catholic can rest at ease with "absolute certainty" that Mary was assumed into heaven, but that does not imply that the same Catholic, in 1949 could not know with "absolute certainty" the same truth on the basis of already real infallible teaching. To say otherwise defeats the very meaning of infallibility conveyed by the Ordinary Magisterium, and the meaning of "faith" therein.
There will always be debate about some teachings that are taught infallibly and yet have not yet been dogmatically defined, as to whether they are taught infallibly or only under "type III" teachings that are fallible. I would suggest that it is a more sensible Catholic attitude to rest at ease in propositions that are confirmed by many centuries of constant teaching by popes and prelates without significant departure, than to insist on the dubitability of them mainly on the grounds of a lack of dogmatic definition.
I prefer to think that the virtues of faith and hope work together, than that faith defeats hope or that hope defeats faith.
>Why? If I knew with absolute certainty that 51% of all humans were going to go to hell, and that 49% would end up going to heaven ... I would want to make sure I am in the 49%.Delete
So you saying NOBODY would be tempted to treat it as a matter of the odds vs a matter of Grace?
Are you saying Satan is too stupid to use that angle? That is underestimating your enemy.
So my solution. We are not meant to know. The case can be made for a majority saved or a minority saved. But it is not at all clear and it is likely futile to find out. One shouldn't see salvation as a matter of Statistical probability. Let's leave that to the so called Intelligent Design crowd. We are Thomists and such things are below us
>What do you mean by "absolute certainty"?
The same dogmatic certainty & I presume you now possess that God Alimighty is a Trinty or that Mary was Assumed. We have no such certainty in regards the number saved. I have no reason to believe it is even part of the ordinary Magestarium or Ordinary and Universal Magestarium since the Church has formally allowed speculations and schemes by which we conclude the majority might be saved. Since she allows that liberty (according to the last time I consulted Ott) I use that liberty to follow a third alternative. We are not meant to know.
>There will always be debate about some teachings that are taught infallibly and yet have not yet been dogmatically defined, as to whether they are taught infallibly or only under "type III" teachings that are fallible.
Of course and till the Church acts in a formal and unambigious extra-ordinary manner to clarify then we follow the old maxium of "Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials and charity in all things". You have the same liberty to affirm what I doubt since the Church allows this and She is Our Mother.
>I would suggest that it is a more sensible Catholic attitude to rest at ease in propositions that are confirmed by many centuries of constant teaching by popes and prelates without significant departure, than to insist on the dubitability of them mainly on the grounds of a lack of dogmatic definition.
Rather if the Church allows variant speculations that don't in their content formally and clearly contradict the Faith then She has granted this liberty and that liberty is bound here on Earth. The Tradition and constant teaching by popes and prelates without significant departure demand the same of us.
I prefer my theological minimalism till the Church formally and clearly tells me I cannot do so.
There are matters on which the Church clearly and positively has taught freedom to speculate on variant theses, because (so she says) the matter has not been resolved.Delete
This is not one of those.
There are other matters on which the Church has not positively taught any specific position, and remain thus open questions (such as the proper resolution of quantum mechanics with the concept of causality).
This is not one of those.
There are matters on which she has taught in resounding clear fashion, in an infallible way, through the ordinary magisterium, with a constant and discernibly singular voice, for many centuries, but has not dogmatically defined them. It would be erroneous to treat these teachings as "free for speculation and allowing liberty of thinking the contrary" like the first and second categories above. Once a Catholic has become aware of the constancy, the persistence, and the strenuousness by which the Church has taught the doctrine, he ceases to be at liberty to think the contrary FREELY and still remain true to Catholic faith. Those who push the envelope against such teachings, who demand that they ARE free to take up the contrary, and who thus push the Church into making it a dogmatic definition where before it had been taught infallibly but not dogmatically, are at fault for refusing to abide by the obligation to form their minds according to the teaching of the Church.
Of course and till the Church acts in a formal and unambigious extra-ordinary manner to clarify then we follow the old maxium of "Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials and charity in all things".
To demand liberty in a matter until the Church has taught via an extraordinary act of dogmatic definition is to completely deny the entirety of Type III teaching as a feature of Catholicism. That's the type that is taught by the Church and requires religious submission of the mind. It also makes the concept of the Ordinary Magisterium null, empty of effect.
So you saying NOBODY would be tempted to treat it as a matter of the odds vs a matter of Grace?
Are you saying Satan is too stupid to use that angle? That is underestimating your enemy.
It is impossible to estimate how stupid people can be - they will always surprise you with creative capacity for stupidity.
Satan can use imperfect understanding of a truth as a springboard for temptation, just as well as an outright error. Hence Satan can (and presumably does) use both the RIGHT position, and all of the WRONG positions on the matter, to tempt poor sinners. Hence that Satan uses it does not constitute proof that it is an error.
She has granted this liberty and that liberty is bound here on Earth. The Tradition and constant teaching by popes and prelates without significant departure demand the same of us.
I am too stupid to understand what this means. If, before the Church dogmatically defined the Assumption of Mary in 1950, a Catholic was "free" to disbelieve the prior teachings that Mary was assumed into heaven, NOW he is no longer free to disbelieve so. The matter was not BOUND by the Church, by Tradition, the popes and prelates to remain an open question.
Sorry I am so late but other arguments and unlike disqus I am not informed by the Net if I get a response.Delete
Anyway I still don't agree Tony.
>This is not one of those.
What is your authority for this opinion? I am sorry but until there is a formal condemnation from the compotent authority then rejecting Von Balthazar speculation is morally on the same plane as me rejecting Molinism. Though entertaining it cannot go father then saying "Well it is possible that is what will happen but we cannot know for certain". It is that simple.
>There are matters on which she has taught in resounding clear fashion, in an infallible way, through the ordinary magisterium,etc...
No doubt but without a formal condemnation what authority retricts me? The opinion of Tony? My contrary opinion? Only the Church can bind ether one of us.
Also this begs the question. Does the Catholic Church teach threw her ordinary magesterium the speculation of Von Balthazar is wrong? Why would Cardinal Dulles say his speculation is not against the Faith? Why are you right and Cardinal Dulles is wrong? Without a higher auhtority weighing in I have no reason to take either side. But I have already chosen my own. We are not meant to know and we must "work out our salvation in fear and trembling" regardless.
>Once a Catholic has become aware of the constancy, the persistence, and the strenuousness by which the Church has taught the doctrine, he ceases to be at liberty to think the contrary FREELY and still remain true to Catholic faith.
They why do we need an extra-ordinary authority at all? Also this begs the question. How do we discern a wide spread opinion from a teaching?
>Those who push the envelope against such teachings, who demand that they ARE free to take up the contrary, and who thus push the Church into making it etc.
Same problem. Why have an extra-ordinary teaching authority at all if all we need is Sola Ordinary Magestrium to take care of everything? Forgive me Tony but that doesn't sound Catholic to me. It sounds like something else. I will say no more.
>It is impossible to estimate how stupid people can be - they will always surprise you with creative capacity for stupidity.
>Satan can use imperfect understanding of a truth as a springboard for temptation, just as well as an outright error. Hence Satan can (and presumably does) use both the RIGHT position, and all of the WRONG positions on the matter, to tempt poor sinners. Hence that Satan uses it does not constitute proof that it is an error.
Fair enough but the Church has formally allowed speculation (& she has that authority) that the majority of the human race can be saved via her ordinary magestrium. I read it in Ott. Also from there I learned the third position. We are not meant to know.
>I am too stupid to understand what this means. If, before the Church dogmatically defined the Assumption of Mary in 1950, a Catholic was "free" to disbelieve the prior teachings that Mary was assumed into heaven, NOW he is no longer free to disbelieve so. The matter was not BOUND by the Church, by Tradition, the popes and prelates to remain an open question.
Fallacy of equivocation. How are these two things comparable? Rather there was a majority view Mary died and was resurrected then assumed vs a minority opinion she was straight "raptured" into Heaven without dying. Pius XII left the later part open.
The opinions the majority will be saved vs majority damned vs Hypothetical pseudo-Universalism seem to be related to that category IMHO.
Wither God will same most, or few or everybody in some manner is an open question. That you or I can still potentially go to Hell for our sins is not an open question. It is that simple.
So you missed the point spectacularly.
Bishops often advance a view similar to Son of Ya'Kov, it's a condemned view. And similar to Son of Ya'Kov they claim "no one knows" anybody is in hell, although it's the universal opinion of the Fathers that Hell is non-empty and it's condemned to think that no Christian will go there.ReplyDelete
The dynamic of "official theology" as Thomas Pink has it is to cease teaching that "it's not true that all Christians are to be saved" (Pius II) since all who will be saints "So predestined, He called them; so called, He justified them; so justified, He glorified them" (Romans 8:30). By no longer teaching the truth they start inventing heretical novelties about having zero knowledge whether Hell is empty or not that have no basis in the deposit of faith to fill the gap so that they can conform themselves to the wisdom of the world and deny the necessity of the Gospel and Jesus Christ. The easiest money is in confirming people in their sins: "wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter".
It's understandable then why people fall into such wretched error. Our Lord Himself taught on this.
The position of von Balthasar regarding universal salvation is misrepresented here. He holds that the deposit of faith does not exclude universal salvation, and therefore the salvation of all May be hoped for, that we may DARE to hope for the salvation of all, and that the Gospel in fact OBLIGES us to hope for the salvation of all, and this obligation derives from the liturgical prayer of the Church (lex orandi lex credendi) in which the Church does pray for the salvation of all. Thus the hope and the prayer of the Church has nothing to do with an idle speculation about the number of the damned (or of the saved); such an idle speculation (the theory of an empty hell) is FALSELY attributed to von Balthasar, and indirectly to those churchmen (including several pontiffs) who have taught that von Balthasar has made an excellent point in REJECTING such idle speculations and feigned knowledge about the statitstics of salvation, and in thinking as the Church thinks and acts in her (liturgical) prayer.ReplyDelete
That some men are not among the elect has been affirmed as a part of the deposit of faith multiple times. (Pius II above) also Trent:
"to expound to all the faithful of Christ the true and salutary doctrine of justification, which the Sun of justice, Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith taught ... all do not receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His passion is communicated"
The above is magisterial.
The false interpretation of our Liturgical prayer is "official theology" in action where people seem to falsely believe (a) we're praying for the souls that have already passed (b) and that people seem to think prayer can ask for a grace overrides free-will rather than it cooperates with it.
The latter is condemned in the dogmatic Constitution, "Unigenitus" Sept. 8, 1713:
Condemned: "When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God."
Condemned: "When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists Him."
Balthasar gave a Jansenist interpretation of the Church's liturgical prayer and its much easier to find his nonsense among statements of Bishops and the like (e.g. official theology) than the true teachings of the magisterium which are suppressed by their omission.
Hence people get led astray and start believing condemned heresy. (A good non-heretical discussion of efficacious grace is here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/grace7.htm )
Your so called Catholic doctrine that some men are not part of the elect is simply an equivocation, a logical confusion, and not Catholic doctrine; that is, if I take your affirmation in the sense that you quite clearly want it to be taken, in the sense that SOME men ultimately WILL be damned, or if you like, are damned (i.e. sitting in hell as we speak). That the Catholic Church teaches this is a false assumption, a confusion of what a person naively has always thought was taught by the Church--dependent on some faulty modes of preaching-- with what the Church teaches. What the Church teaches, following our Lord, is the real possibility of hell, and thus the evil of sin, of mortal sin most especially, and the weight and seriousness of this life that we live. Von Balthasar is by no means a Jansenist. The Jansenists misconstrued the doctrine of efficacious grace and they taught that Christ did not die for all men, a teaching that was rejected formally and definitively by Papal Magisterium (which closes the door on the closed and reductive understanding of the Eucharistic Word pro multis). Pope Benedict taught us that for all men is a defective translation, but NOT a misleading interpretation.Delete
Balthasar is not a full Jansenist but he and his promoters believed the Jansenist doctrine that God picks who is saved.Delete
The equivocation you've done is not distinguishing between
praying for God's grace to save everyone
a) all men receiving sufficient grace to be saved (this is true and we pray for others to receive grace such that they can be converted)
--or-- with a "jansenistic" view where God picks who is saved and converts them independent of any movement of their will (or God moves their will)
b) all men being saved
The latter is condemned and evil and has caused many to forsake the defined doctrine of Jesus. Indeed, if praying to God can secure salvation for others and does not require their cooperation with God and therefore said prayer being answered in no wise requires all are, in fact saved.
To deny this would be to render the Holy Ghost a liar: "Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in Me."
The misunderstanding is not surprising: official theology has trained a generation of Catholics to regard the magisterium with doubt and distrust. But, I would implore anyone interested in truth to engage with the beautiful doctrines of Christ and the Gospel found in the Councils and Encyclicals.
The Bible and Catholic theology speak of an elect, and elect means chosen, picked: salvation is rooted in God's election. God is sovereign.Delete
But this does not remove the necessity/possibility of human collaboration. Augustine tells us that "God, who created you without you, will not save you without you."
Von Balthasar as a good Catholic and as a good theologian believes in the decisiveness of God's election; but that does not make him a person who denies the decisiveness of free human collaboration with God's grace which seems to be what you are saying by calling him Jansenist.
God's freedom and human freedom work on different planes.
Eternity and history (human existence) are similarly on different planes. This is why it is wrong to think of people being in hell "as we speak": by thinking like that we turn time into a universal container which contains both time and eternity, and so doing we turn God into a thing and salvation history into a myth. This is all destructive of Catholic Truth.
No one has said that the Church by praying for the salvation of all is teaching that salvation is automatic and those people we pray for do not need to collaborate with grace.
Your position seems to be the Pelagian one which denies the decisive role of grace in the work of salvation. (Pelagianism and Jansenism are connected though superficially they are opposed.)
I do not buy the distinction between a so called official theology which is represented by Pope Francis, I suppose, even in writings such as AL (which has every bit as much magisterial status as Familiaris Consortio) and the Magisterium which is represented by everything pre-Francis. The Church does teach a distinction between ordinary and extraordinary magisterium, but we are bound to submit in conscience to the ordinary magisterium, even when it does not teach infallibly.
Docility to the Magisterium prevents the corruption of theology. You can see the corruption of theology taking place among those who reject the magisterial teaching of Pope Francis.
The remarks of Francis on the Death Penalty HAVE a magisterial character, especially now that he has ordered a significant change in the Catechism's text reflecting what he has taught. To pretend that he did not express the intention of teaching to the universal church is to play devious word games.
Benedict XV called "the [present] pains of the impious in Hell" a "dogma" in "In Praeclara Summorum".Delete
I think we can agree that repeating the words of the successor of Peter in talking about their pains in Hell is not "destructive of Catholic Truth". Doing so places one at odds with Christ's vicar.
The loss of the theology of original sin in "official theology" has also rendered an apparent wide-spread misunderstanding of Pelagianism. We're born children of wrath and we can only be saved through Jesus Christ who's grace, should we consent to it, will justify us and preserve us from sin.
But there is reason to rejoice that we have common ground: God can answer our prayers that all be saved by availing everyone of the graces they need to be saved, but that does not contradict that many will reject those graces and be damned.
Hence Balthasar wrongly condemns the multitude of Popes, Doctors of the Church, and Saints for believing that many are in Hell right now as though such belief were contrary to the Church's liturgy--since praying for the salvation of all does not require all to be saved in order for such prayers to be fully answered--since the will is not wholly passive in justification.
Our Lord, himself said: "And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation." (Jn 5:29)
We must forever defend our Lord's words and Gospel message of keeping His word and the commandments.
I take Our Lord's words seriously. It is just that someone who I happen to categorize as an evil-doer is not necessarily an evil doer in God's eyes, and I hope and pray that sinners will be converted. And if some saint or Pope or theologian at some point says something which sorta kinda sounds like he knows about how many people are in hell (any kind of statistics AT ALL about that matter) I reserve the right to ask where he is getting his information from. From the Gospel? Or From some Deposit of Faith unrelated to the Gospel? For me the Gospel is the Good News, but some people can't stand the idea of good news, there has to be a little scary spooky terrorism mixed in. Good News+statistics about the final salvation/damnation of our brothers and sisters. That seems to be what certain people think the Gospel is. I disagree fundamentally. I believe that the Gospel message is far to serious to contain something that would only serve to satisfy morbid curiosity. Von Balthasar, as a good theologian reminds us of the morbid attitude that has infected the transmission of the faith in this area. The Popes have sided with him fundamentally. Should we prefer the morbid way of looking at things merely because we have become accustomed to it? In the readings of the mass in these days we have seen how Jesus asserts that no one knows the day of the Second Coming and the Final Judgement, not even the Son, only the Father. This means that Jesus becoming Incarnate had to assume human unknowing, and that we should imitate his unknowing by following his most central moral teaching: Judge not lest ye be judged. Jesus does not affirm to us the final damnation of Judas. He tells us that the sin of Judas was necessary to fulfull Scripture, i.e. to fulfill God's plan of salvation. Then why does he say "Better for this man had he not been born" which is the favorite Gotcha Text of those who are sure that the Gospel gives us salvation statistics, but it gives us no such thing. It affirms the intrinsic evil of sin. Those who use hell terrorism in their preaching are in fact relativizing sin. If you are defining mortal sins as those that you get helled for, you are turning morality on its head. You are perverting Dinine Justice, you are thinking that God is a mere tyrant.Delete
Contrary to the "official" but non-magisterial theology you mention above the Council of Trent teachesDelete
"But though He died for all, yet all do not receive the benefit of His death,"
One of the sources of this is our Lord: “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 7:21
but docility to the magisterium is not " reserv[ing] the right to ask where he is getting his information from"
So, we know that all will not be saved. In "official" theology this extraordinary act of the magisterium is suppressed through a false accusation that those who believe it are "hell terrorists" or driven by "morbid curiosity". Since so a Pope/Council in their extraordinary magisterium taught contrariwise we could look for a Christian motive which we find in the same Council of Trent session 6: "If any one saith, that the fear of hell,-whereby, by grieving for our sins, we flee unto the mercy of God, or refrain from sinning,-is a sin, or makes sinners worse; let him be anathema."
The fear of Hell, which is made all the more real to us by the teaching that not all are saved moves us to repentance so that we "with fear and trembling work out [our] salvation" (Ph 2:12).
Certainly, we should be able to agree that the Catechism of St. JPII is not "hell terrorism" or views "God a mere tyrant" though #1861 says: "Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself....If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell"
Moreover, Christ had two natures but was one divine person "without separation" per the Council of Chalcedon and therefore, as the Catechism teaches: "By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.108 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal."
Official Theology: Christ had imperfect knowledge
Magisterium: Christ in His union with the Word knew everything
Official Theology: teaching that not all will be saved is terrorism
Magisterium: Jesus in His mercy taught us not all are saved
Anybody should recognize that the collapse of Christian penitential life throughout the western world occurred at the same time that official theology began maligning those who defend the magisterial teaching that not all are saved. In our sinful nature the weak among us are assisted to move our thoughts from earthly concerns and towards Heaven.
When Trent teaches that not all men are saved, but only those to whom the benefit of Christ’s passion—who died for all—is communicated, it is not teaching that only some men, not all, will finally be saved as if that future outcome were known to us, as if it were a fact, and as if that fact were known to us as being part of the Deposit of Faith, revealed by Christ to the Church.Delete
It is telling us that it is not a doctrine of faith that all men will be saved, but it is a doctrine of faith that those who avail themselves of the Redemption WILL be saved.
To say that all men are saved is to say that salvation is automatic since the most important affair of human existence has already been resolved, so don’t worry, just sit back and eat the popcorn, for there is no sense in Evangelizing, there is no sense in the mission of the Church, there is no sense in spiritual, ascetical and moral effort, since the thing has already been decided.
Trent tells us that all men are not saved, but pay attention to the tense of the verb. It is about what IS, not about future outcomes. All men are not saved, and thus the game is NOT over.
I fully adhere to Trent, and so does von Balthasar who professes the right and the duty to HOPE for the salvation of all, and tells us that the Church does hope for the salvation of all, and that all of her activity is directed according to that hope, and if the Church hopes so can he.
The hell-terrorist and the teacher of universal salvation are brothers in arm, they both deny the human condition, they both deny the twofold doctrine that we are children of Adam and redeemed by Jesus. They both make hope impossible. They both eviscerate hope, making it unrecognizable, they both would remove from the salt its savor. They both open the door to the Great Sin of Indifference.
The hell terrorist breaks the unity of the human race, opening the floodgates to every form of Manicheism, racism, hatred, prejudice, and indifference. But the universalist is his secret ally, who makes salvation meaningless because he makes condemnation impossible, and so doing flings the doors open to indifference which is nothing other than a subtle form of hate.
The magisterium of the Church, which some people want to whittle away at by insinuating that the Magisterial pronouncements of the Church are not really magisterial pronouncements at all when they come from Pope Francis or whoever you don’t happen to like at the time, is warning us about these errors.
(For instance when Pope Francis condemns the modern variants of Gnosticism and Pelagianism in Gaudete et Exsultate , backed by the CDF in Placuit Deo, which taugh about the same matters). We are told that we do not have to take such things seriously, because it is just Pope Francis, and he is just doing this to irritate us conservatives (even though this teaching is not in fact directed at conservatives) and that gives us the right to dismiss such teachings through this new category of “official theology” which allows us to strain all that we don’t like out of Papal teaching.)
Karl, let me step back from "all men" language and instead focus on certain men, many men, the general run of men, etc.Delete
Christ clearly taught us that it is possible to sin mortally, and to go to hell in that state.
The modern novelty purveyors (the ones trying to stay as close as possible to Church doctrine on everything EXCEPT the issue of there being people who actually end up in hell), propose that what could actually happen is that even for the worst of sinners, even the hardest of hearts, even the most rabid God-haters, who are blaspheming with their final breath: when they come to the moment of death, and pass out of apparent consciousness, they COULD (theoretically) be given such an overwhelming gift of interior enlightenment, of awareness of their prior error, of reason and motive to convert, and to accept God's offer of grace at that moment, thus achieving a turning away from sin and to the Light, and receiving salvation in fact. This could happen in an interior way that provides us with no visible sign. God could do this after the person seems to have lost the use of reason and will, but before he has actually had the separation of body and soul. God could intervene in the normal passage of death so that death is delayed during a short time wherein God miraculously provides the person with the wherewithal for conscious thought in spite of a brain no longer functioning decently and miraculously supplying what the body cannot provide for one last moment of humanly willed act, an acceptance of grace.
This could happen to a person. It could happen to ANY evil person who we see die seemingly "in his sins". Even to a person 100 feet away from ground 0 in a nuclear blast, whose whole body ceases to be intact in about 1/10,000 of a second (far faster than ordinary thought). Hence we can't say of any such person, with definite knowledge: "We know that person is now in hell".
It is not reasonable, nor is it WELL-conformable with Church teaching, that God does this with every single person who gets right up against the very moment of death without having already repented of his grave sins. Supposing even the possibility that God carries out such Extraordinary Interventions (EI) for every single person in such a state at the moment of death is not compatible with the Gospel understood in its entirety.
It is incompatible in so many ways that it is hard to even start to formulate them. Christ's warnings (of which Miles mentioned just a few) are certainly some reasons. Those warnings are quite nonsensical if we suppose that perhaps God does this with every single such sinner.
On a more pragmatic plane, the notion that God would intervene in such an extraordinary way in every single case of a grave sinner dying plays havoc with just about everything we understand about God's Providential order, both those apparent through natural means and those that we received through revelation. The whole point of miracles being, ya know, miraculous, is that they operate not in the ordinary way of things, but as unusual events. Miracles could not stand out as supernatural intervention by God if they ALWAYS happened. God COULD heal every single person suffering from cancer, but he doesn't, most of the time he lets the natural causes play out and have their effect - either death through natural causes, or healing through natural causes like a physical operation.
God also COULD convert every soul to love Him and love the Church at a single moment, say on Easter Vigil when the whole Church prays for all men, but He doesn't, he does his interventions by grace on a wide and varying scale of degrees, some barely discernible, some readily discernible, some very, very few overwhelmingly discernible like St. Paul being knocked off his horse and blinded: There is nowhere in the other workings of the order of grace where God is observed to intervene in every single case in the very same way, with an extraordinary intervention to reform even the wills of hardened sinners to change their ways. This is not the picture Christ presents to us in ANY teaching, saying, example, parable, or any other revelation of the Father. Quite the opposite, everything Christ says indicates God does not operate this way: when the Good Thief asks for Christ's blessing, Jesus promises him eternal life - but He does not do so for the other criminal on His left. God treats people differently all up and down the line, why would He cease to do so just when they get to the moment of death, and intervene in a way that undermines the import of all of the warnings earlier stated in the Gospels?Delete
The magisterium of the Church as expressed before the year 1960 does not say "we know there are already people in hell right now and we know who they are", but at the same time it cannot be read to DENY that according to what Christ has told us, when we get to the end of time, we will find that there are some condemned and some saved. Since there is - also according to that very same magisterium - a perfectly adequate way of understanding the Church's praying for "all men" without disturbing the conclusion that some men will be condemned (i.e. that in praying for "all men" we pray for every single one, not in the expectation that every single one will be saved, but in asking for every single one in that we know not which ones might be saved, and our prayers might act for ANY one of them), the fact that there are prayers for all men should not be used to argue that maybe God will perform those EI miracle moments of grace for every grave sinner at the moment of death. There is no apparent way to make such a proposal conform to the teaching Church. All it does is confuse people about the truth.
There can be no plausible proposition that St. Augustine, the Anti-Pelagian par excellence, should be found to harbor pelagian sentiments. It isn't pelagianism to say that for salvation, it is in the ordinary course of Divine Providence, after God's grace moves a person to repentance, that the person continue in cooperation with God's moving grace for some period of time during this life, and that a salvation that comes to a person via a grace that intervenes in spite of direct obstinate blasphemy right up to final loss of consciousness would be extraordinary. The extraordinary cannot be the ordinary way God acts.
There is no middle ground between the thesis (a) that in the Gospel, Christ’s warning that those who die in sin will be condemned to hell means there will be some not saved, and the thesis (b) that it is possible that every member of the whole human race will actually receive the grace of salvation and be saved. Posing it as a hypothetical and in the subjunctive, that God might perform that EI extraordinary miracle in favor of every single grave sinner at death, does not successfully wedge a middle place between those theses. Such a hypothetical is entirely a creature of (b) and rejects (a). Even if God could have done so had he deigned to mold some other providential order, the one He has actually revealed to us is not such a one.
Von Balthasar, and I with him, and also the Catholic Church does not teach that universal salvation is a reasonable hypothesis. What von Balthasar says has nothing to do with such speculations, or such calculations, or such assessment of what one considers a reasonable hypothesis about the final results of human history. The Church prays for the salvation of all and participates in the radical commitment of Our Lord to the salvation of all. No speculations, just faith hope charity and radical commitment to the will of the Father that all men be saved. A salvation which is not automatic. Von Balthasar held that the theologian should get out of his armchair to do his theology on his knees.Delete
I don't think Tony is correct & all things being equal it is remotely possible God might save everybody (I am not against it) or the majority or merely the minority of people & I agree with Cardinal Dulles that Von Balthasar's speculations are not against the Faith.Delete
That having been said saying the opinions of Tony are "Hell Terrorism" is tedious hysteria on the level of the hysterical over reactions to Von Balthazar.
So Church teaching must be defended? According to Catholics its not against natural law to eat the sum total of a live human being all at once, or to put someone else's organs into someone else (heart transplant), but a husband can't finish outside his wife even if both are infertile and she is having vaginal pains. What a profound and subtle Church! GRReplyDelete
FYI my view is that of Cardinal Dulles which is simply that Von Balthazar's speculation is not contrary to the faith.ReplyDelete
I already commented on Pius II.
I believe there are likely people in Hell.