Friday, February 10, 2023

Talking about All One in Christ

The latest on my book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory:  Recently I was interviewed for the EDIFY Podcast on the topic “The Truth about Critical Race Theory.”  You can listen to the interview here.  I was also interviewed about the book by Deal Hudson for the Church and Culture radio show.  You can listen to the episode here.  Other reviews of and interviews about All One in Christ can be found herehereherehere, and here.


  1. Great Book! Easy to read, solid arguments presented, highly recommend to anyone who wants to dig in the CRT from a Catholic and philosophical perspective.

  2. How should Catholics approach the issue of preserving culture? On the one hand, a culture is not entirely an ethnic construct. On the other hand, cultures almost always have an ethnic dimension to them.

    Without being racist, can a Catholic affirm their preference for a certain place with a specific people and way of life produced therefrom? Is it possible or plausible that different racial groups produce different cultures?

    None of this entails hard racial/ethnic/cultural lines, bans on immigration, or especially hatred of others or their cultures. CCC 2241 is instructive. But I fear that all nuance around this issue is easily lost, and I sometimes feel demoralized by the way certain charitable organizations approach the issue.

    1. A worry i have myself.

      From our posters here, does @Mister Geocon knows a good ressource? You are the guy that came into my mind.

  3. Dr. Feser,
    Your section on the Catholic teaching on racism struck me as rather superficial. You write, “racism is the belief that not all races have the same basic rights and duties and / or supernatural destiny and, therefore, not all races should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life … Racism thus entails giving some races special favor over others in these respects.” “Therefore” is doing a lot of work here. Are you saying that “racism” is ‘giving some races special favor’ only conditioned on the belief that not all races have the same basic rights etc. What if the giving of special favor is based on other grounds?
    Relatedly, could you explain how you square your Interpretation of Paul VI, that racism is contrary to the Church's teachings with Aquinas’s statement that we have an obligation to give special favor to our kinfolk [consanguineorum] because they are our blood relatives. For example, Aquinas states:
    Secundario vero nostri esse et gubernationis principium sunt parentes et patria, a quibus et in qua et nati et nutriti sumus. Et ideo post Deum, maxime est homo debitor parentibus et patriae. Unde sicut ad religionem pertinet cultum Deo exhibere, ita secundo gradu ad pietatem pertinet exhibere cultum parentibus et patriae. In cultu autem parentum includitur cultus omnium consanguineorum, quia etiam consanguinei ex hoc dicuntur quod ex eisdem parentibus processerunt, ut patet per philosophum, in VIII Ethic. (IIae q. 101 a. 1 co.)
    Ad tertium dicendum quod cultus et officium, ut Tullius dicit, debetur omnibus sanguine iunctis et patriae benevolis, non tamen aequaliter omnibus, sed praecipue parentibus, aliis autem secundum propriam facultatem et decentiam personarum (IIae q. 101 a. 2 ad 3)
    We are told that we owe piety to our kinfolk, because they are our relatives and reason for being. Moreover we are told that piety entails service and honor (e.g., Et ideo Tullius dicit quod pietas exhibet et officium et cultum. Ut officium referatur ad obsequium, cultus vero ad reverentiam sive honorem).

    Does not this piety owed to our kinfolk not imply special favor? And is it not the same sort of favor we are owed to our immediate kin, material and social?

    1. What is these "kinfolks" for St. Thomas? The modern concept of race he did not know, so it is probably refering to people of the same lineage and all that.

      At the saint time the extended families were way closer than today, so it was easier to do that. Even on my contriy there are some families, mostly traditionaly important ones, that do take pride of their lineage and try to help the kinfolks.

    2. After writing this I noticed that Feser makes the Aquinian argument in "The virtue of patriotism". And, indeed, states:
      “As Aquinas also says, by no means does this entail that one has no obligations to help those of other country, any more than one’s special duty to one’s own parents and family entails that one need not ever help other families. The point is just that a special concern for one’s own country is not only not wrong, it is obligatory.”
      Except, quite remarkably, he translates Aquinas' "patria","consanguineorum", and “sanguine iunctis” (“fatherland”,"kin", and those united by blood) as "country" -- as if Aquinas was referring to mere “terra”. Fester even acknowledges Aquinas’s genealogical-based justification:
      “Love and reverence for country is thus an extension of love and reverence for parents and family, and has a similar basis. One’s country is like an extended family, and benefits one in ways analogous to the benefits provided by family.”
      Whereas Aquinas says:
      The worship due to our parents includes the worship given to all our kindred, since our kinsfolk are those who descend from the same parents, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 12). The worship given to our fatherland includes homage to all our people and to all the friends of our fatherland. Therefore piety extends chiefly to these. (In cultu autem parentum includitur cultus omnium consanguineorum, quia etiam consanguinei ex hoc dicuntur quod ex eisdem parentibus processerunt, ut patet per philosophum, in VIII Ethic. In cultu autem patriae intelligitur cultus concivium, et omnium patriae amicorum. Et ideo ad hos principaliter pietas se extendit.)
      And notes:
      “On the contrary, Tullius says, in his rhetoric, that it is piety by which those who are united by blood, and benevolent to their fatherland, are given duty and diligent worship. (Sed contra est quod Tullius dicit, in sua rhetorica, pietas est per quam sanguine iunctis, patriaeque benevolis, officium et diligens tribuitur cultus.)
      Above, Aquinas cites Aristotle, who unambiguously discusses ties of blood:
      “Friendship between relatives itself seems to include a variety of species, but all appear to derive from the affection of parent for child. For parents love their children as part of themselves, whereas children love their parents as the source of their being.... brothers love each other as being from the same source, since the identity of their relations to that source identifies them with one another, which is why we speak of ‘being of the same blood’ or ‘of the same stock’ or the like; brothers are therefore in a manner the same being, though embodied in separate persons….Cousins and other relatives derive their attachment from the fraternal relationship, since it is due to their descent from the same ancestor; and their sense of attachment is greater or less, according as the common ancestor is nearer or more remote. “
      Following Aristotle, Aquinas states that this piety is owed since one’s parents are the source of one’s being ) (”essendi principium”). The reference is to descent. One owes piety to those who beget one. This piety extends to our country insofar as the latter is also a principle of being:
      Reply Obj. 3: Piety extends to our fatherland insofar as the latter is for us a principle of being. (Ad tertium dicendum quod pietas se extendit ad patriam secundum quod est nobis quoddam essendi principium)
      Again, “essendi principium” refers back to Aristotle and his discussion of “friendship between relatives… due to their descent from the same ancestor; and their sense of attachment is greater or less, according as the common ancestor is nearer or more remote”.
      Amazingly, Fester proceeds to state that loyalty and favoritism to one’s “race” is immoral. One has to wonder what this “race” (fr. lineage) means if not those sanguine iunctis which the “right-wing brands of racism” seem to refer to.
      I have no idea how these considerations would apply in context to multi-ethnic states. Aquinas’ point is clearly that we have a special duty to our nacioun.

    3. Talmid, in natural history the term "race" was adopted from the French for "lineage" and is translated in Latin as "gens". The terms were used to refer to population-lineages of all degrees of separation (e.g., the Irish race, the Caucasian race, the Human race). Aquinas uses neither but refers to "consanguineorum," "sanguine iunctis," "patriae" etc.
      But his argument is clearly that we owe piety to our relatives and our "patriae" on account of blood-ties. In fact, he stipulates this: "Ad tertium dicendum quod pietas se extendit ad patriam secundum quod est nobis quoddam essendi principium." See my follow-up comment and also Aristotle’s discussion.
      In another article, "The virtue of patriotism," Feser interprets Aquinas' statement as applying to "countries". If it applies to whole countries, and the often 10s of millions therein, it surely can apply whole "nacioun". I think that opens very interesting questions which Feser, for some reason, elides. Take now multi-racial Ireland. Do native Irish have a special obligation to other native Irish over and above say newly settled Asian and African Irish? Why not, given what Aquinas’ argument and also the differences in blood-relation? And how would that not lead to "racial discrimination"?

    4. Hey, John, only saw it now! St. Thomas focus seems more on way closer folks like extended family. Just look at his examples and even to how the societies of his day functioned.

      Remember that the obligations get weaker when the ties get as well, so one could argue that the irish has a bigger obligation with the native irish, but them we need to consider how big this obligation is when the ethnical conjoining is quite a weak relation when compared with something like a family bond and also consider other bonds that the irish has with the new settled like the ones of culture and being childrens of God.

      Of course, the modern liberal wants the only tie between folks being that they are subject to the same Leviatan, but we should oppose it while not trying to exagerate diferences. Even on most pre-modern societies ones color or other visual characteristics were hardly the only tie between folks.

    5. Talmid, you note, "we need to consider how big this obligation is when the ethnical conjoining is quite a weak relation when compared with something like a family bond..." I think you underestimate how related members of the same ethnic group are relative to the global human population. The relationship is equivalent to twice the fixation index (FST). Generally, two members of the same ethnic group are about as related as cousins relative to the global population. See e.g., Salter & Harpending. "JP Rushton’s theory of ethnic nepotism." I was surprised when I read this myself, because, in behavioral genetics, we often say that one is effectively not related to someone beyond the level of 4th cousins. However, this is only relative to the background relatedness of the population, which owing to historic patterns of filiation can be rather related relative to the global one. Is there an easy escape for "civic nationalists". I don't think so, insofar as you take Aquinas' argument seriously. I wouldn't expect Catholic theologians and priests to do this, because of the implications. However, the logic is what it is.As for the point about what societies Aquinas had in mind, numerous people have applied the argument to patriotism with respect to modern day countries, so it would seem a little disingenuous, for them, to decide there is suddenly limited extension when it comes to race. That said, I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

    6. Talmid, you note, "it while not trying to exaggerate difference". Aquinas' makes that statement that the piety owed to those related by blood can not take away what is owed to God. And with this stipulation, you can oppose invidious racism. So, I think you could take the argument seriously without undermining Catholic social teaching, but I think doing so would be, nonetheless, unpalatable for most theologians of the current year.

    7. Wow, that is interesting data there! It is still a bit interesting to know more about it. It means on cases of these ethnical minorities or more traditional peoples were there is little reproduction with members of other groups? Is it relevant when dealing with, say, people of countries like the EUA or my own were people of, say, the black community actually do have white people blood?

      But the implications can be pretty important. On St. Thomas classification, does genetics trump having the same culture and way of life? Because that is probably what the civic nationalist can try to defend to mantain his view. I admit that this is beyond my level.

      Note that the modern citizen has way less cultural connection with the other citizens than one on Aquinas time would have, thanks to how we today have a way less regulated way of life, regulation by custom, beliefs etc, than on traditional societies, so the civic nationalist case is already harder.

    8. Apologies for the delay. Had to help with family. I read over Aquinas, Aristotle, and Cicero jointly and affirm my general interpretation.
      As for your question regarding admixture, I don't see why it would matter, since admixture can be represented in terms of relative number of common ancestors and since Aquinas and Cicero state that this piety is owed on account of shared ancestry. It would be the same if your parents were from two different nations ("fatherlands") and analog to the relation a child has to both halves of his family.
      You ask, "On St. Thomas classification, does genetics trump having the same culture and way of life?" Well, he says that piety is owed on account of shared ancestry. That doesn't mean that other honors and duties are not owed. In fact, he clearly distinguishes between piety (in Cicero’s sense) from “legal justice”, owed on account of “common good”.
      “but legal justice [in contrast to filial piety] respects the good of the country inasmuch as it is the common good.” [ …sed iustitia legalis respicit bonum patriae secundum quod est bonum commune.]
      Let me know if you come to a different conclusion & why.

    9. Sorry for MY delay XD

      You make a good case there, actually. But that does take us to a few questions. For instance, how shared that ancestry can be? Because if we are picking, say, a black guy from there and a black guy from another american state them their ancestors likely never had contact for a looong time, so St. Thomas principle would not work. If you pick a black guy from there and one from her, there was probably no contact at all.

      And what to do with mixed folks? Here it is very traditional.

      Like, i can see your argument helping in cases like, say,someone who is from a ethnical group that is quite close or someone from a immigrant family who still has piety for thr group his ancestors came from.

      Sadly, few would discuss that.

    10. Apologies. I overlooked this post. You raise an interesting question so let me follow up, if belatedly:
      “…Because if we are picking, say, a black guy from there and a black guy from another american state them their ancestors likely never had contact for a looong time, so St. Thomas principle would not work.”
      So, let’s imagine a Nigerian family of Bantu ethnicity who recently migrated to the USA and also an African American family, from a very isolated community, whose ancestors were from Nigeria and enslaved and transported to the Americas in, say, the 1780s, but whose lineage nonetheless remained 100% Bantu. In this case, the two family lineages would have been separated by the Atlantic for maybe 10-15 generations. How does this separation affect the blood-based piety Aquinas refers to, given the absence of recent co-mingling over many generations?
      This is a very interesting question. Two arguments could be made:
      [1] These families owe each other respect in proportion to their genetic affinity, despite the isolation from one another over the past 250 years, because the respect is strictly due to degree of shared ancestry.
      [2] These families do not owe each other respect in proportion to their genetic affinity, because the respect is due to the recurrent consummation of relations.
      I think [1] is more in line with a straight reading of Aquinas, Cicero, and Aristotle, but [2] is actually more in line with the current understanding in evolutionary biology. What Cicero and Aristotle refer to is kin altruism. And Aristotle explains this just as Diotima does in Plato’s Symposium: one cares about one’s biological relations because they are one’s self in another. There is no obvious reason why recurrent consummation would matter given this interpretation. And this is the rationale Aquinas accepts. But in evolutionary biology, the reason is termed “inclusive fitness”: one’s biological relations share altruistic genes. However, these altruistic genes are generally purged after generations of separation. I suppose you could reinterpret Aquinas in light of modern biology. But, if you do so, there seems to be no reason to retain the underlying natural philosophy argument, so I think the whole argument would go out the window. But what do you think? Note, I am not making an argument that you should actually help "someone who is from a ethnical group that is quite close". Rather, I am arguing that this is what Aquinas' logic, if taken seriously, would seem to imply -- as opposed to, say, helping someone on account of them having a similar passport.

    11. It seems that i beated you in delays again XD

      It does seems that St. Thomas logic would require something like [ 1 ]. One could argue that this owned respect is not very important thanks to only blood connecting the families and the distance between mixing, but there needs to be something there.

      The civic nationalist can probably argue that this respect is beaten by the cultural proximity between non-related people of the same country, so it is not the sort of thing that would matter much on daily life or public policy.


  4. So, I previously asked, "could you explain how you square your Interpretation of Paul VI, that racism is contrary to the Church's teachings with Aquinas’s statement..."
    I since carefully read Octogesima Adveniens: “Among the victims of situations of injustice - unfortunately no new phenomenon - must be placed those who are discriminated against, in law or in fact, on account of their race, origin, color, culture, sex or religion…All members of a country must have equal access to economic life, to mental culture, to political and social affairs.”
    The specific statement refers to everyone and so would seem to apply with respect to race, origin, culture, sex, religion etc. Thus, based on this statement, the Church would seem to be against racial preferences only in the same way it is also against religious ones and, say, “giving [Catholics] special favor over [non-Catholics].” If that interpretation is correct, it would leave a great deal of room for an obligation of partiality to one’s nacioun and also, and perhaps uncomfortably, many forms of what many would consider to be “racism”.
    However, this interpretation does not resolve the problems with Feser’s puzzling statement in “The virtue of patriotism”:
    “in fact [cosmopolitanism] is immoral, in a way that is analogous to the immorality of refusing to have a special love and loyalty for one’s own parents and family. Similarly immoral are views which replace patriotism with loyalty to one’s economic class (as Marxism does), or one’s race (as both left-wing and right-wing brands of racism do)”.
    To illustrate the problem, consider, say, a person of Han ethnicity who has moved to India and naturalized. In light of Aquinas’ argument, is this person obliged a special love and loyalty to the 1+ billion Han people or the 1+ billion citizens of India? Imagine he’s endogamous and gives birth to a child in India. To which group should his child’s "patriotic" love and loyalty be placed, again following Aquinas' reasoning?
    Amazon preview only allows one to see a few snippets, so I ordered “All in One”. Perhaps a full reading will provide more clarity.

    1. From mit brennender Sorge by Pius XI, the famous “anti national socialist” encyclical, “34. No one would think of preventing young Germans establishing a true ethnical community in a noble love of freedom and loyalty to their country.“ I’m not sure how one can read Aquinas’ articles of the proper order of the virtue of charity, or his prescriptions for sound immigration policy without “discriminating” based on race/ethnicity. I’m just a layman though of course.

    2. That's interesting. The term in the German version is "Volksgemeinsch", literally "folk community". We are also told: "The Church founded by the Redeemer is one, the same for all races and all nations. Beneath her dome, as beneath the vault of heaven, there is but one country for all nations and tongues; there is room for the development of every quality, advantage, task and vocation which God the Creator and Savior has allotted to individuals as well as to ethnical communities. [...""ist Raum für die Entfaltung aller von Gott dem Schöpfer und Erlöser in die Einzelnen und in die Volksgemeinschaften hineingelegten besonderen Eigenschaften, Vorzüge, Aufgaben und Berufungen"].

  5. Note, aside from Aristotle, Aquinas cites Cicero four times. Aquinas says:
    “On the contrary, Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii) that "it is by piety that we do our duty towards our kindred [sanguine iunctis] and well-wishers of our country [patriaeque] and render them faithful service… Reply to Objection 3: As Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii), "we offer homage and duty to all our kindred [sanguine iunctis] and to the well-wishers of our country [patriae]"; not, however, equally to all, but chiefly to our parents, and to others according to our means and their personal claims.”
    Here is what Cicero says in “On Invention”:

    “They call that piety, which warns us to fulfil our duties towards our country, our parents, or others connected with us by ties of blood. (pietatem, quae erga patriam aut parentes aut alios sanguine coniunctos officium conservare moneat)”
    “Natural law is that which has not had its origin in the opinions of men, but has been implanted by some innate instinct, like religion, affection, gratitude, revenge, attention to one's superiors, truth… Affection is that feeling under the influence of which kindness and careful attention is paid to those who are united to us by ties of blood, or who are devoted to the service of their country. (Naturae ius est, quod non opinio genuit, sed quaedam in natura vis insevit, ut religionem, pietatem, gratiam, vindicationem, observantiam, veritatem… pietas, per quam sanguine coniunctis patriaeque benivolum officium et diligens tribuitur cultus)”
    I am no expert, but “per quam sanguine coniunctis” would seem to refer to something lineage-like, as opposed to a strictly political community or geographic territory.
    So it seems rather strange that some people interpret Aquinas as referring to the later. See, for example: MacArt's (2022) "Pietas: A Case for Ethical Patriotism in Aquinas".