Cajetan and Prayer in Bad Papal Times

From Thomas de Vio Cajetan, De Comparatione auctoritatis papae et concilii, ch. 27, nos. 417-420; cited in Journet, Church of the Word Incarnate, vol. 1 (pp. 425-427).

If you tell me that prayer is but a common remedy to be used against all the ills that afflict us, and that for the special evil that troubles us here we need a proper remedy—since every effect comes of a proper cause, not merely form general causes—I reply, in a general way, that the highest causes, although they play the part of common causes in respect to lower effects, play in fact the part of proper causes in respect to higher effects.  And that is why prayer, which is to be put among the highest of supernatural second causes, is only a common cause of lower effects; but it is a proper cause and the proper remedy for the highest effects, such as would be—since it is reserved for God—the removal from this world of a still believing but incorrigible Pope….

If then, on the one hand, the means available to human effort, even if superelevated by the authority of the Church, are a force inferior to prayer, appointed as the highest of second causes by God, to whom all creatures, corporeal or spiritual, are subject; and if, on the other hand, a remedy against a bad but still believing Pope is among the highest effects in the Church, it follows that God in His wisdom, must have given the Church for remedy against a bad Pope, not now any of these merely human means which may avail for the rest of the Church, but prayer alone.  And can the prayer of the Church, when she perseveringly asks things needful for her salvation, be any less efficacious than merely human means?  Is not the fervent prayer of an individual soul who asks such things for himself already efficacious and infallible?  (Cf. St. Thomas, SCG, 3.45 and 46.)  If then the salvation of the Church demands that such and such a Pope should be removed, then undoubtedly the prayer we have mentioned will remove him.  And if it be not necessary, why question the goodness of the Lord who refuses what we wish and gives us what we ought to prefer?...

But alas, it seems that we are come to the days announced by the Son of Man when He asked whether, on His return, He should find faith on the earth.  For the promises relating to the highest and most efficacious causes are held to be of no worth.  They say that we must depose a bad Pope by human means; that one cannot be content with resort to prayer and to divine providence alone!  But why do they say that , if not because they prefer human means to the efficacy of prayer, because the animal man does not perceive the things of God, because they have learnt to trust in man, not in the Lord, and to put their hope in the flesh?

So if a pope hardened by evil ways appears, his subordinates, without leaving their own vices, content themselves with daily murmings against the evil regime; they do not seek to avail themselves, save perhaps in a dream and without faith, of the remedy of prayer; so that what Scripture predicts comes about by their fault, namely that it is due to the sins of the people that a hypocrite reigns over them, holy in respect of his office, but a devil at heart…

We have become blind to the point of refusing to pray as we ought, while yet desiring the fruit of prayer; of refusing to sow, while still wanting to reap.  Let us not call ourselves Christians any longer! Or if we do, let us turn to Christ; and the Pope, were he frantic, furious, tyrannical, a render, dilapidator and corrupter of the Church, would be overcome.  But if we do not know how to overcome ourselves, what right have we to complain of being unable to break through the evils that surround us by prayers that not only fail to rise through our roofs, but do not even mount as far as our heads?  And the worst of all is this: God of old upbraided His people for honoring Him with their lips while their hearts were far from Him; but in the days of the revelation of Grace, God is not even honored with lips, for nothing is less intelligible than the recitation of the divine office, nothing said more quickly than the Mass; the time given to these seems long, too long, but time enough is found for play, business, and worldly pleasures, and for loitering over them endlessly.

On the Study Methods of Our Time

Giambattista Vico, On the Study Methods of Our Time, trans. Elio Gianturco (Ithaca, NY: Cornelll University Press, 1990).

I recall a conversation with aphilosophical acquaintance.  A man of much wisdom and much social grace, he was aware that a poor, young scholastic such as myself might not know of Vico.  I think I surprised him that I had a sliver—truly, only a molecule—of awareness of VicoI knew of him from a remark in Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, giving a generally negative remark regarding his outlook on truth, namely the semi-famed expression that that truth is made.

Well, without worrying about questions of relativism or pan-social-construction, I knew the time had come to read some Vico.  Eventually, I'll trudge through his New Science.  For now, I just am trying to get into a mind who has considered matters of truth that are more "practical" (in the Aristotelian sense).

Law / moral thought is primary here.  Important points, given the nature of practical truth.  Of course, much is spotty, as one expects from a work such as this. 

Some very interesting remarks early on (and occasionaly later) regarding the ars topica.  I suspect that a renaissance of a more traditional form of logic would arise from a good treatment of topical matters.  Recall Vincent Edward Smith's remarks about the search for definitions and modern thought.  We spend most of our time searching for middle terms.  A good definition, searched for in the midst of dialectics, is a true work of the mind.

Good counterpoint to the geometric manner of modernity.

One is struck by the fact that Thomism—because of its theological bent—doesn't present a robust and detailed theory of law (no matter what one might say in protest).  Law and moral thought are interwoven in some important ways—creations of and reflections on prudential reasoning.

One senses Vico's own bent of mind: "There is only one 'art' of prudence, and this art is philosophy" (48).  And again: "But the greatest drawback of our educational methods is that we pay an excessive amount of attention to the natural sciences and not enough to ethics" (33).  This is true today; it is true, in another way, of traditional Thomistic bents.  We are a people of the speculative intellect, we Thomists (and for many good reasons).  Yet, I remember a very thoughtful person once saying to me, "Yes, well, I haven't really thought very much about ethics."  It should give one pause!  A careful reflection must be given to the nature of Thomistic "intellectualism" so that it does not, however, end up in this sort of outlook.  The whole order of things is turned upside down in modernity—practical intellect rules.  While ultimately wrong, it does help to reorient one's mind to issues that the Thomist may overlook.  In any case, note the moral focus of Vico.  If he is a constructionist, his legal training bends his mind to the moral order, not the technical.

If understood aright—but only if understood aright—there is truth in the expression: "Therefore, it is an error to apply to the prudent conduct of life the abstract criterion of reasoning that obtains in the domain of science" (35).

What joy!  A shout-out to Cajetan: "Similarly, today the jejune and aridly deductive reasoning in which the Stoics specialized is followed by the moderns, whereas the Aristotelians of the recent past are characterized by the varied and multiform style of their utterance.  An argument presented by Pico della Mirandola, which a learned modern would contract into a single sorites, is rebutted by Cajetan in a string of one hundred syllogisms" (17).

He sees it to be an advantage for law to be at once theoretical and practical.  See the whole latter half, though he says this at p.60.  His vocabulary differs from the peripatetic, but one senses that a resonance regarding the nature of practical-moral knowledge of any kind whatsoever.  Recall what Aristotle states about the kinds of arguments made in moral philosophy.  Counsel is not the same as moral philosophy.  However, it is also true that a speculative practical "science" is a science in a very different manner from a purely speculative one.

See his remarks on imitation, genius, etc. on p.70 and following.  While not the deepest of reflections, it is important to recall that all making and doing is in fact making and doing something new in the world that need not be, were it not for us.  Here, so many Thomists fall short, not knowing the meaning and implications of ars et prudentia.

A good counterpoint to others in modernity: "The Ancients should be read first, since they are of proved reliability and authority.  Let us take them as standards by which to gauge the quality and validity of the moderns"  (74).