Saturday, April 12, 2008

Some questions in moral theology

1. Regarding self-defense

If I am being attacked by someone with a knife, am I obligated to use a knife (or my bare hands) to stop the attack or to disarm him? Or can I use a gun as a deterrent? Is it permissible to follow through on my threat if the threat fails to stop the attack?

If the attacker is standing still but has a knife out, it seems that I am obligated to warn him at least--there is no aggression yet? (Or is having a knife out enough to constitute aggression? It seems not--one cannot judge intention, though it seems 'reasonable' to judge that there is some potential for violence.) But if he starts to attack, do I need to warn? Or can I shoot to stop his attack?

Is the use of a firearm proportionate to his use of a knife? Do we judge means based on how they cause harm to the body? Or by the likelihood of it causing serious injury or death?

What of an unarmed attacker? It seems like a gun is going too far. But what if he is a skilled fighter, and there is a possibility of him hurting or disarming me? It seems that one is not required to go hand-to-hand, but can use a blunt weapon (baton) or a taser. (Although the employment of a taser would probably not be prudent, since it requires time and attention to operate.) Can a gun be used as a deterrent if the attacker is judged to be highly skilled?

2. Jimmy Akin has argued that it is morally acceptable to get a tattoo. I tend to disagree.

But can it be shown that tattooing is intrinsically wrong?

Tattoo: the term or purpose of the external act is precisely to put a tattoo on the body

Is it permissible to put paint pellets in the body to make it beautiful? Is this a morally indifferent act? Take an 'extreme' case -- getting a tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe or of the cross.

Is the body intended to be a canvas so that we can use it as we wish, to display whatever we want? Or is it intended for something more? Do we possess our body completely, or are we more like custodians of it? If the body is not appropriate matter to be drawn on, then the act of tattooing would seem to be intrinsically wrong. Is it that simple? Or is there a different rationale for prohibiting the act?

Altering or changing the body for the sake of some standard of beauty?

Possible intentions:
A. Vanity (only if the beauty that is intended is disordered in some way?)
B. For the sake of making the body beautiful
C. Statement or expression of rebelliousness;
D. Exaltation of youth culture (in opposition to the old fogeys); not quite 'rebelliousness'

Evaluation of the intention yields what conclusion?

Possible no because of circumstances? Negative associations of the tattoo which leads to scandal.
Link to a culture of promiscuity and casual sex?

Psychological 'necessity' to get a tattoo; purging of shame/guilt felt by losing one's purity by embracing a culture and its symbols? Compensation?

JIMMY AKIN.ORG: Still Yet More on Tattoos
JIMMY AKIN.ORG: Tattoo You... and you, and you...

Magister on Kasper

"Oremus pro conversione Judæorum." Cardinal Kasper Takes the Field

The president of the commission for relations with Judaism replies to those who reject prayers for the conversion of the Jews: "The when and how of the salvation of Israel must be left in the hands of God"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

James Prosek, The Failure of Names

via The Western Confucian--an article in the most recent issue of Orion Magazine: "The Failure of Names: An artist puts his faith in diversity over taxonomy," by James Prosek

Another salvo (perhaps unintended by the author) in the debate over classification and how the term species should be used in biology.

St. Thomas on how to study

From Northampton Seminarian: St. Thomas Aquinas on How to Study

"Letter of St. Thomas Aquinas to Brother John on How to Study"
Because you have asked me, my brother John, most dear to me in Christ, how to set about acquiring the treasure of knowledge, this is the advice I pass on to you: That you should choose to enter by the small rivers, and not go right away into the sea, because you should move from easy things to difficult things.
Such is therefore my advice on your way of life:
+ I suggest you be slow to speak, and slow to go to the room where people chat.

+ Embrace purity of conscience; do not stop making time for prayer.
+ Love to be in your room frequently, if you wish to be led to the wine cellar.
+ Show yourself to be likable to all, or at least try; but do not show yourself as too familiar with anyone; because too much familiarity breeds contempt, and will slow you in your studies; and don't get involved in any way in the deedsand words of worldly people.
+ Above all, avoid idle conversation; do not forget to follow the steps of holy and approved men.
+ Never mind who says what, but commit to memory what is said that is true.
+ Work to understand what you read, and make yourself sure of doubtful points.
+ Put whatever you can into the cupboard of your mind as if you were trying to fill a cup. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods ...


O ineffable Creator,
Who, out of the treasure of Thy wisdom,
hast ordained three hierarchies of Angels,
and placed them in wonderful order above the heavens,
and hast most wisely distributed the parts of the world;
Thou, Who are called the true fountain of light and wisdom,
and the highest beginning,
vouchsafe to pour upon the darkness of my understanding,
in which I was born,
the double beam of Thy brightness,
removing from me all darkness of sin and ignorance.
Thou, Who makest eloquent the tongue of the dumb,
instruct my tongue,
and pour on my lips the grace of Thy blessing.
Give me quickness of understanding,
capacity of retaining,
subtlety of interpreting,
facility in learning,
and copious grace of speaking.
Guide my going in,
direct my going forward,
accomplish my going forth;
through Christ our Lord.



In Latin

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cardinal Kasper says no to dual covenant theology

From Insight Scoop: Cardinal Walter Kaspar on dual covenant theology: "No go!", which links to Against the Grain and a translation of the original article by Cardinal Kaspar in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, "Das Wann und Wie entscheidet Gott",

Monday, April 07, 2008

Servais Pinckaers, OP: RIP Servais Pinckaers, OP: RIP

Vox-Nova: Rumor: Servais Pinckaers, O.P. passes
Fr. Servais Pinckaers dies at the age of 82.

Fribourg: Décès du dominicain Servais Pinckaers, ancien doyen de la Faculté de théologie

Un spécialiste de théologie morale né à Liège le 30 octobre 1925

Fribourg, 7 avril 2008 (Apic) Le Père dominicain Servais-Théodore Pinckaers, professeur émérite de théologie morale à la Faculté de théologie de l'Université de Fribourg, dont il fut également doyen, est décédé le 7 avril à l'âge de 82 ans.

Né le 30 octobre 1925 à Liège, en Belgique, "une ville détruite par Charles le Téméraire, en 1468, à cause de son amour de la liberté", aimait-il à dire, Servais Pinckaers est entré à l'âge de 20 ans dans l'ordre des dominicains. Un ordre auquel il allait rester fidèle toute sa vie.

Profès dans l'Ordre des frères prêcheurs en 1946, il est ordonné prêtre en 1951. En 1952-53, il passe son doctorat à Rome. Il est ensuite enseignant à La Sarte, en Belgique, de 1954 à 1966. De 1966 à 1973, le Père Pinckaers est supérieur de la maison des dominicains de Liège avant d'être appelé comme professeur de théologie morale à l'Université de Fribourg. En 1989-1990, il est doyen la Faculté de théologie, et plusieurs fois prieur du couvent de l'Albertinum, à Fribourg.

Il est nommé en juin 1989 consulteur à la Congrégation pour l'Education catholique par le pape Jean Paul II. Auteur de nombreux ouvrages théologiques, il a donné sa dernière leçon à l'Université de Fribourg en juin 1996. En l'an 2000, le professeur de théologie morale était fait docteur "honoris causa" de l'Université du Latran à Rome.

De nombreuses distinctions

La distinction de docteur en "théologie du mariage et de la famille" lui avait été remise en présence du cardinal Camillo Ruini, Grand chancelier de l'Université, et du cardinal Angelo Sodano, secrétaire d'Etat au Vatican. En 1975, 10 ans après le Concile, le Père Pinckaers participait, notamment avec le Père Raphaël Oechslin, et ses confrères Guy Bedouelle et Georges Cottier, à la fondation de "Sources", une nouvelle revue dominicaine bimestrielle éditée à Fribourg. Son objectif était de garder le "juste milieu" dans la mise en pratique des réformes issues du Concile Vatican II.

Il fut également consulteur de la Congrégation pour l'éducation catholique, organe de la Curie romaine, responsable de la formation et des séminaires, et membre de la Commission théologique internationale, un important collège du Saint-Siège qui réunit 30 membres sous la présidence du préfet de la Congrégation pour la doctrine de la foi et traite des questions centrales de la théologie.

Le Père Pinckaers est l'auteur de nombreux ouvrages théologiques qui sont devenus des références en la matière. L'Université de Fribourg l'avait honoré à l'occasion de son 65e anniversaire en 1990, notamment par la parution d'un recueil d'hommages sous le titre "Aux sources du renouveau de la morale chrétienne". La messe d'obsèques du Père Pinckaers aura lieu au couvent de Ste-Ursule à Fribourg jeudi 10 avril à 14h30. (apic/be)

07.04.2008 - Jacques Berset

ND Center for Ethics and Culture profile: Servais Pinckaers, O.P.
University of Fribourg bio

Google Books:
The Sources of Christian Ethics - 1995 - 519 pages
Morality: The Catholic View - 2001 - 141 pages
The Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Thomistic Moral ... - 2005 - 422 pages

Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP 16 June 1999 Fides et Ratio-13 Reflections

Telegraph UK: Nobel laureate Sir Martin Evans attacks Catholic view on embryos

Via NOR:

Nobel laureate Sir Martin Evans attacks Catholic view on embryos

I haven't written much about hybrids; if the matter is tampered with to the point that it is no longer able to receive the proper form, then a human being will not be created. Without knowing the techniques involved though I won't say anything further.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Questions about racial discrimination

And what sort of laws are unjust...

Now if someone or some company is offering a service to the public and provides different types of service (or requires patrons to follow different rules), the only basis of discrimination being skin color, that does seem to be unjust, according to distributive justice. Similarly, it manifestly wrong for the government to distribute unequally according to race or skin color. But is it unjust for a business owner to not sell his goods or services to someone of a different color because is a bigot? Let us not use the argument of libertarians, who appeal to "property rights" and such to reject laws against such discrimination. In that case it does not seem to me that commutative justice is being violated. Now someone might say that the business owner, like the bus company, is offering a service to the public. Is there no distinction between the two? Is the business owner providing a service, or is he selling some external good?

What serves the public? Who is obligated to serve the public?

Or is the problem not of commutative justice, but of legal justice? (Surely this problem also pertains to the (natural) love of neighbor and civic friendship, but can the acts of beneficence be legislated? Can someone be required by human law to be a good Samaritan? If I cannot be compelled by human law to save the life of another when I am able, or punished for failing to do so, can I be compelled by human law to sell soap to someone else? If not soap, then, how about food?) If members of a community stop having economic transactions with one another because of racial discrimination, then the community is in danger of fragmenting. And so laws might be enacted to prohibit such discrimination, not because commutative justice is being violated, but because it is detrimental to the common good. But is legislation the best way to bring about change? If a community is not allowed to dissolve or separate, then would it not be better to work for the change of hearts, if the use of law and punishment too would also threaten social cohesiveness and the common good?