I am a graduate student at Boston College pursuing my PhD in theological ethics.  My world view is decidedly Thomistic. I believe that faith and reason are not contradictory and that the light of reason can both illuminate and deepen certain tenants of faith. I find Thomas Aquinas’ method deeply inspiring for the problems we face today in both the church and the world. Like Aquinas, I am a committed Roman Catholic praying for the day that the body of Christ becomes whole again. In the meantime, my husband and I attend worship at both a Roman Catholic Church and a Church of Christ on Sunday mornings.


9 comments so far

  1. brian on


    I often find myself in conversations with a scholarly sounding Lutheran who is convinced that the advent of “Thomism” was the break in the natural development of Christian doctrine because it forces human reason upon the God’s plan of salvation – which I know you’ve heard before. My question: Is there a goood study/book/resource that puts this theory into an objective perspective. I am a Catholic convert of 9 years and have grown very energized in the Faith and wish to delve deeper into this and some of the more contriversial issues. Such as the recognized preeminence of the Bishop of Rome and how early this occured and the real story behind the 1054 Schism. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  2. Brendan on

    Your website is interesting and useful, thanks. I see that you support the idea of God as pure act. I am working on a section of my doctorate in philosophy and in it I imply that if God were pure act he could not act. I can’t seem to get my head around the idea that a Being could already essentially be in act–what room could that leave for putting oneself _into_ act?? Just thought I’d post you this to see if you had any ideas. God bless

    • everydaythomist on

      God does not act in the sense of moving, as Aquinas says in the introduction to God’s essence in the Prima Pars: “We cannot know what God is, but only what He is not. So to study Him, we study what He has not — such as composition and motion.” So God does not put Godself into act; God simply is act.

      • splenior on

        When God created, there was no container for God, and there was no container outside of God. The only place to put the void was within himself. Likewise with ‘act’ there was nothing outside of God which to act upon. If time is merely a measure of decay, then in the timelessness of God, existence is a quantum phenomenon wherein various states may be entered irrelevant to time. This is action without motion.

  3. Stephen Hasbrouck on


    I enjoyed your discussion of Job and Aquinas. I am a Church of Christ minister who loves to read the Catholic theologians…especially Thomas. I also hope the churches will reunite some day and break bread together. Looking forward to reading more. Just discovered this blog today.

    God bless you,
    Stephen Hasbrouck, Jr.

  4. Michelle Hirschboeck on

    Stumbled onto your blog after learning that I must include “some significant reading in Aquinas” in my Intro. Ethics class. I really appreciate your comments on Les Mis.

  5. Bill on

    Hi, I am going to be leading a discussion on the moral obligations of accusers, defendants, witness and attorneys according to the Aquinas in the Summa. I think Aquinas if he were living today would modify some of the things he said regarding, oh women as witnesses and perhaps self incrimination etc. Is there anyone out there (preferably a faithful and informed Catholic attorney who could tell me some updated moral obligations of judicial actors above?
    Our discussion is on Saturday, October 27, 2012.

  6. Bill on

    These are my notes as discussion leader.

    Wondering if an informed and faithful attorney could update the moral obligations compared to what Aquinas said in the Summa.

    Recent press reports suggest that: ____________ is a person of interest in a criminal matter; ____________ may be his accuser; ____________, ____________, ____________ and ____________ may serve as witnesses at trial; ____________ may serve as his attorney and; Judge ____________ may be assigned the case.
    I was blessed to have lunch at Andreas’s restaurant this afternoon with Saint Thomas Aquinas and I asked him about the moral responsibilities of the key participants in this potential trial. I asked him whether given what he knows now in his celestial state and the historical developments in jurisprudence that have taken place since his death, he would amend any of the moral guidance he gave in these matters in the Summa Theologica (I think, for example of the areas of self-incrimination and the role of defense attorneys in providing an adequate defense, attorneys with disabilities, appeals to non-believing judges). He acknowledged that there were indeed, jurisprudential developments and that He now had direct access to Wisdom personified but he chose not to provide updated advice. He simply advised the discussion group to wrestle with the existing text, pray for wisdom and think about the moral obligations of accusers, defendants, witnesses and attorneys in light of what we know about contemporary jurisprudence. He did, however, want to apologize for his reference in the section on witnesses to “a defect in the reason, as in the case of children, imbeciles and women”. He assured me that he would not make such a remark today. He told me that his Dominican sister St. Catherine of Siena corrected him about that with utmost charity.
    Last time we learned about the moral responsibilities of judges – that they shouldn’t pass judgment on anyone outside their jurisdiction; they should judge according to the evidence and not extra-evidential information they may have; a person should be accused first before judges pass sentence; and that judges should not revoke their sentences.
    This time we focus on accusers, defendants, witnesses and lawyers.
    I would like to provide each of the potential participants in this potential trial a briefing concerning their moral responsibilities according to St. Thomas. I turn first to ____________; the potential accuser in this matter.
    Moral Responsibilities: Plaintiffs
    ____________, if ____________ has committed a crime against society and you can prove it, it is your moral responsibility to make a written accusation unmixed with calumny, collusion or evasion. Failure to prove your accusation may result (justly) in your receiving the punishment that would have been inflicted on the you you have accused. So please think this over very carefully before you accuse ____________. If ____________’s actions do not injure society or you do not have proof; you are not under obligation to accuse him. Denouncing his conduct does not carry with it an associated punishment like accusation does.
    ____________, if ____________ is your superior you have to examine your motives in accusing him. If you are only trying to defame and disparage his conduct as your superior or you are guilty of the same crime that you are accusing him of, then you should not accuse. If this is not the case and you are otherwise qualified, you may accuse a superior.
    Also, ____________, the good of the community should be preferred to a private good so if ____________ is an old friend of yours, it is okay for you to reveal secrets for the good of the community. You may not maintain a secret to the detriment of the common good.
    Now ____________, if you finally decide to accuse ____________, we need to get in writing. Verbal utterances are apt to escape your memory and written accusations help the judge to know for certain what had been said and with what qualifications so he can pass sentence. A denunciation may be made verbally to the Church but an accusation must be made in writing.
    ____________, justified accusations need to be ordered for the common good. You may not injure a person unjustly (e.g. falsely accuse or calumniate) in order to promote the common good. Now sometimes a person might falsely accuse a person not out of malice but error or believing too readily what you hears. While it is not calumny unless it done with malice, you should be very careful to get the story right before accusing someone.
    ____________, as an accuser beware of colluding with defendants to deceitfully hide things related to the subject matter of the accusation by dissembling (disguising or concealing something behind a false appearance) the defendants proofs and admitting false excuses.
    Once you make the accusation, ____________, you can desist from it if you become aware that your accusation is false or if it is quashed by a public official in charge. However you may not turn your back on or withdraw your accusation without good reason.

    Moral Responsibilities: Defendants
    Now I would like to brief you, ____________ on your moral responsibilities as a potential defendant.
    ____________, you may not lie to cover any guilt you may have related to this potential accusation and just as accusers may not falsely charge you, you may not use false charges to defend yourself. Should you be found guilty you may appeal if there was an injustice done to you but not simply to delay punishment. If you were justly convicted of a capital crime, you are may not resist or defend yourself.
    ____________, lying in order to cover your guilt (if indeed you are guilty) is a mortal sin. You are duty bound to tell the judge the truth which he or she exacts from you. If you refuse to tell the truth or if you mendaciously deny it, you sin mortally. If on the other hand the judge should ask you something which is not in the order of justice, you are not bound to satisfy him and you may lawfully escape by appealing but it is not lawful for you to lie.
    ____________, you might consider it a white lie to tell the judge an untruth to save yourself from death a venial sin but Aquinas would not. To lie, with injury to another person is not a purely white (officious) lie and in this case you would be doing an injury to the judge to whom you are bound to obey. The truth is due to him.
    If you lie in court by denying your guilt, you act both against the love of God to whom judgment belongs and against the love of neighbor not only the judge who you refuse his due but to your accuser who will be punished if he does not prove his accusation.
    You may sometimes withhold the truth but you may not utter a falsehood. You are not bound to divulge all truth, but only such as the judge can and must require of you e.g. when you are already disgraced through the commission of some crime, or certain indications of your guilt have already been discovered, or when your guilt is already more or less proven. You are not required to answer questions that you are not bound to answer. This is not calumny; it is a prudent escape. But you must avoid guile and fraud.
    You may appeal if you are confident in the justice of your cause and were unjustly oppressed by the judge. As a Catholic, you may not appeal to an unbelieving judge (1 Cor. 6:6) or even a judge of another faith. You may not ask for a just appeal if you had a role in selecting the judge in your own case unless the judge was also an ordinary judge appointed by higher authority. If you decide to appeal, you should do so within a limited amount of time (Aquinas said 10 days) and you may not appeal a third time on the same point. We don’t want the certainty of judgment to be ever in suspense and Aquinas thought it improbably that judges would judge unjustly so many times.
    Not all self-defense is lawful. If you try to defend yourself from being justly executed; you sin. You are not required to commit suicide. If you are condemned to death by starvation and someone provides you with something to eat, you may eat it. If you are condemned to death unjustly, you may resist.

    Moral Responsibilities: Witnesses
    Unless you are an ordained priest who may not testify on information he obtained in confession or testify in a capital case even if he did not gain his information from confession, you are generally bound to give testimony if you are ordered by a judge to do so or the concealment of the truth would be injurious to a person. Even if your evidence is not demanded by a judge, you are bound to declare the truth if someone may profit from it (e.g. to deliver a man from unjust death or defamation). There are instances where you (even as a non ordained priest) may keep faith to someone who has entrusted you with a secret even if a superior command you to testify (were examples given?)
    No matter how many witnesses we have, the evidence may sometimes be unjust but at trial we do not required demonstrative certitude but a certitude of probability. Having three witnesses who agree on the essential facts related to the charge makes for certitude of probability. You need to agree with the other witnesses in terms of time, place and persons. Any discrepancies between your testimony and that of other witnesses in matters not related to the substance of the trial (whether it was a cloudy day the day of the crime) do not weaken the evidence. Actually if you agree on non-essential details with the other witnesses, it may leave the judge wondering whether you have conspired with the other witnesses.
    If the defendant in this case were a church official such as a bishop two or three witnesses would not be sufficient because those who have to judge other men often have many oppyounts on account of their justice so that those who give evidence against them should not be believed indiscriminately unless they are very numerous. A condemnation of such church officials would detract from public opinion concerning the dignity and authority of the Church.
    The reliability of your evidence may be weakened and your evidence may even be rejected because of some fault connected with you such as past criminal behavior, you being a non-believer, or a person with an evil reputation. It can also be rejected for reasons that are not your fault such some defect in reason such as in persons with mental disabilities or not having reached the age of reason. The strength of our evidence as a witness may also weaken if you have an enemy or a family member or friend involved with the case. If you are poor or enslaved or under authority, you might be easily induced to give evidence against the truth. If you are disqualified from testifying, this may be done as a precaution against false evidence rather than for purposes of punishing you. Giving evidence is necessary for your salvation provided that you as a witness are competent and the order of justice be observed.
    You should know that if you give false witness that you are committing a mortal sin. False witness in a trial involves perjuring yourself since you took an oath to tell the truth. It is a mortal sin because it is an act of injustice. Of course, giving false witness is a lie which can be either venial or mortal. So it wouldn’t be a mortal sin just because it was a lie but it would be a mortal sin for the perjury and the injustice.
    Moral Responsibilities: Attorneys
    You are not always obligated to defend the suits of the poor or else you would have to put aside all other business and occupy yourself entirely in the defending them. This applies to physicians as well. A defense of a poor man’s suit belongs to the works of mercy but no one person is able to provide works of mercy for all those in need. Since you can’t to good to all priority should be given to those who by place, circumstance or a kind of chance are united to us. You are bound to help a poor man’s suit if it appears that they cannot get no help from elsewhere. Not every need is such that is your duty to remedy it.
    It is sometimes appropriate for certain persons to be debarred. Some may be debarred due to lack of sense as in the case of madmen and minors or it is impossible due to being deaf and dumb. The lawyer needs to have an interior skill so that he may be able to prove the justice of the cause he defends and he needs his speech and hearing so that he may speak and hear what is said to him.
    Besides lack of abilities, you may be disbarred because it would be unbecoming if you, as an attorney were an unbeliever or convicted of a serious crime. Also, it is not becoming for a monk or a priest to be an advocate since they should be involved with higher things. Necessity can trump unbecomingness so in the case of necessity you can plead for themselves or those close to you.
    As an attorney you sin if you knowingly advocate an unjust cause. It is unlawful for you to cooperate in an evil deed by counseling, helping, or any way consenting, because to counsel or assist an action is, in a way, to do it. If you thought it was a just cause and later found out differently, you ought not to throw up your brief in such a way to help the other side or to betray client confidentiality but you must give up the case or induce your client to give way or make some compromise without prejudice to the opposing party. You may conceal whatever might hinder the case’s happy issue but you may not employ any kind of falsehood.
    Just like a physician, as an attorney you are entitled to take a moderate fee for your services taking into account your client, the matter at hand, the work involved and the custom of the country. If you extort an immoderate fee you sin against justice.
    You are not bound to do everything that you could do out of mercy for free. If that case no you would be able to sell anything. If you do it out of mercy you should look for a Divine not human reward.

  7. Michael Miano on

    I found your blog researching Wayne Meeks. Your article was awesome. Thank you!

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