Casuistry

Garrigou-Lagrange on Manuals and Casuistry (Florilegium)

Manuals - Quote 1

 

Now, is this the same as saying that critical realism dispels every obscurity.  Oh, most certainly not!  And while certain manuals of Thomistic philosophy speak little about the mystery of knowledge (because they have for their end, above all else, an insistence upon that which is clear and absolutely certain about knowledge), if one were to ask true Thomists to write expressly concerning the mystery of sense knowledge, or upon the mystery of intellectual knowledge, and upon their relations to one another, they could easily show that we find here a marvelous chiaroscuro, more beautiful than all of those painted by Rembrandt.  And as, in this chiaroscuro, the two elements that compose it make their arguments mutually, the true Thomist does not wish to suppress the mystery but, instead, to show its true place.  Concerning this, he has as much sense as does anyone—certainly much more not only than the materialist but also than the Cartesian idealist—for, not wishing to deny any of the elements of the problem, no matter how distant they may be from one another (i.e. matter and spirit, the sensible and the intelligible), he knows that the intimate mode of their union remains (and will remain) forever profoundly mysterious.  This mystery remains for us to show, though without diminishing anything in regard to the first and unshakable certitude of which we have spoken in this chapter. 

 

Manuals - Quote 2 (Less important)

Today, the question is proposed of knowing if this Wolffian manner of dress—if not, indeed, this Spinozist manner of dress—without fully being a straightjacket does not interfere with the natural movements of Thomistic Peripateticism’s arms, so to speak.  Many scholastics think that it does, even among those who (practically speaking) must follow the new order, which prevails among many of the manuals and which has been adopted by many seminaries and universities.  Some masters have, indeed, reacted in returning in their works and lectures to the classical order commonly followed up until the 18th century.  Thus, proceed his eminence Cardinal Mercier,[1] Fr. Gredt,[2] Fr. Hugon,[3] and Jacques Maritain,[4] as well as all those who give themselves over to the direct study of Aristotle and St. Thomas’s commentaries on him.  The new laws related to the doctorates in theology and philosophy promulgated by the Holy See in 1931[5] also enumerate the parts of philosophy in the following order: logic, cosmology, psychology, critique, ontology, natural theology, ethics and natural law [lit. ius naturale].

 

 

Manuals - Quote 3 (A favorite of mine because of its "bite")

This opposition between the method of a philosophical treatise and a theological treatise is particularly salient if one compares, on the one hand, natural philosophy, which ends (according to Aristotle) by the proof of the existence of the First Mover, to, on the other hand, the cosmological part of the Summa theologiae, which begins in ST I q.44 and 45 by a study of creation.  Likewise, one will find the same difference between, on the one hand, the De anima of Aristotle, commented on by St. Thomas, and, on the other hand, the Treatise on Man in the Summa theologiae.  Following a method that ascends step-by-step, the De anima, considers the vegetative soul, then the sensitive soul, then at last the rational soul and the great problems that are posed concerning it.  However, the Treatise on Man in the Summa theologiae from the first question deals with the problem of the immortality of the rational soul, the image of God, and the problem of its specific distinction from the case of the angels (of which the theologian has already spoken according to a descending manner).  The order to follow in psychology, at least in a work of Peripatetic philosophy, is obviously that of the De anima and not that of the theological treatise De homine.[1]  Granted, it is easy to make a manual of philosophy by transcribing the parts of the Summa theologiae that are related to being, truth, the sensible world, the soul, God, and moral thought. However, a philosophical treatise ought to be something other than such a juxtaposition of texts.

 

Manuals - Quote 4 (Not a bad comment either)

To present this doctrine concerning potency and act in another, a priori manner as happens in many manuals, is to suggest that it has merely fallen from the sky or that it is only a simple, pseudo-philosophical translation of contemporary language, leaving the necessity of establishing its value, as has been said by Henri Bergson.  In such an undertaking, there is no longer any profundity in analyzing matters; one is content with some quasi-nominal definitions of potency and act, and one no longer sees well in what way and why potency differs from the simple possible, from privation, and from imperfect act (or the force / Leibnizian virtuality, which is only an impeded act).[1]  Likewise, one can merely limit oneself merely to enunciating the relations of potency and act in the axioms proposed as commonly received in the School [i.e., the Thomist school, Suarezian school, etc.] without seeing their true value on which, nevertheless, everything depends.  It is necessary to admit this fact: this fundamental chapter of metaphysics, i.e. regarding act and potency, remains in a state of great intellectual poverty in many manuals when one compares them to the first two books of Aristotle’s Physics and to the commentary that St. Thomas has left us concerning it.  In such cases, someone in philosophy has certainly greatly neglected the method of discovery, which is founded upon the very nature of our intellect—an intellect that is indeed the very least among intellects.

 

Manuals - Quote 5 (Interesting point on prudence and moral theology)

As has been noted, the ever present importance of this treatise on prudence would appear clearly to modern thinkers if one would only add two words to its title: “Concerning prudence and the connected moral virtues, in relation to the formation of the conscience.”  Prudence, which directs all the moral virtues, is so fundamental that no human act is good without also being prudent.  And despite this fact, numerous modern manuals of moral theology, which do give a large place to the treatise on conscience, pass quickly in silence over this virtue, the principal cardinal virtue.  They sometimes dedicate only eight or ten pages to it and appear to forget that right and certain conscience is an act of prudence, of which one must determine its formal object, proper nature, and its connection with the other virtues 

 

Manuals / Casuistry (Taken from De Revelatione)

Some modern manuals of moral theology contain almost nothing else but casuistic theology, and in them moral theology appears like a science of sins to be avoided as grave or minor, rather than a science concerning virtues to be perfected.  Likewise, many modern treatises of ascetic theology and mystical theology do not proceed enough from the due foundation of moral theology concerning the nature and progress of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and thus they are constructed in too empirical a manner, and are lacking in doctrinal value.  From these defects is the notion of the eminent unity of Sacred Theology diminished.

 

Casuistry (Taken from De beatitudine) All gathered together  V

Once upon a time and up to the time of St. Thomas, moral and dogmatic theology, as we will see, were, so to speak, mixed together.  St. Thomas clearly distinguished them inasmuch as he treats of dogmatic theology in the first and third part of his Summa theologiae.  But, later on, certain theologians, such as Gabriel Vasquez,[1] said that they are two distinct sciences, two scientifichabitus.  And according to this tendency, moral theology, becoming more and more distinct from dogmatic theology, leaves to dogmatic theology questions concerning grace, merit and the nature of the infused virtues, and in the end often is nothing other than casuistic theology, which, according to us, is only the inferior application of moral theology, just as ascetical theology and mystical theology are its higher applications.  The reign of casuistic theology was from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19thcentury....

 

Whence, to distinguish dogmatic theology and moral theology as two sciences is no longer to consider the elevation and simplicity of the formal object quod and quo of them.  Therefore, it represents a kind of materialistic tendency, which is all the more apparent as moral theology is more greatly distinguished from dogmatic theology, ultimately leading moral theology to be reduced to casuistry, in which nearly nothing remains of the loftiness of the great moral theology that is dwelled upon in this second part of the Summa theologiae.

 

Casuistic theology is the application of moral theology to the solution of cases of conscience inasmuch as in a given case there attends a grave or lesser obligation [obligatio sub gravi aut sub levi].  Thus, as is obvious, it is rather concerned with sins to be avoided than with virtues to be exercised.  But, casuistic theology does not seem to be something per se distinct from prudence; for perfect, right, and certain conscience is an act of prudence....

 

 

But, from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century casuistic theology prevailed, for many during this era set aside all the properly doctrinal questions concerning the final end, human acts, the foundation of morality, the nature of law, the nature of the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the various states of life of men, and many thinkers almost exclusively treated matters concerning the law practically considered, at greater length about conscience, about probable conscience, and for any given virtue, after the  enunciation of some principles, they posited cases of conscience for the sake of determining in particular cases what is obligatory with regard to mortal and venial sin [sub gravi vel sub levi].  In this way, moral theology becomes more the science concerning sins to be avoided than concerning the virtues to be exercised and perfected.  Whence, this merely casuistical theology is devoid of efficacy for motivating men toward the good.  Whence, from this moment, moral theology declines and often descends into laxism.  Above all, in such a conception of theology, ascetical and mystical theology do not have a doctrinal foundation anymore. Therefore, many write ascetical and mystical books without any doctrinal value.

            Among these casuistic theologians, one must cite Antonio Escobar y Mendoza (1589-1669), Paul Laymann (1574-c.1635), Hermann Busenbaum (1600-1668), and others.

            In this time, namely in the 18th century, there appeared a man sent by God to save casuistry from its defects, the chief of the modern moralists, St. Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787), Doctor of the Church and Founder of the Redemptorists.  He wrote many works, especially ascetical ones.  His moral works are greatly known to all and have been praised greatly by the Popes.  Among these works are: Theologia moralisHomo apostolicus, and Praxis confessarii.  He proceeds in a manner that is less speculative and more practical than St. Thomas, and devising Equiprobabilism, he saved casuistry from the defects of the probabilists and the laxists.

            However, afterwards, in the schools in which the rudiments were taught, the scholastic method and casuistic method were united, along with certain ascetical applications.  Nevertheless, in the universities, there were generally two distinct cursus that were taken: one in a scholastic manner, the other in a more practical manner, namely in the casuistic manner.  But now there also was established a distinct cursus of ascetico-mystical theology.

            At the end of the 19th century, with [the encyclicals of] Leo XIII, Thomism resurrected, so to speak, and therefore, many authors divided moral theology nearly as did St. Thomas.  Nevertheless, the influence of the defects of casuistic theology still remained in many in a significant manner.  For, it is often the case today that many doctrinal questions are removed from moral theology, such as doctrinal questions concerning human acts, and the foundation of morality; likewise, the treatises on the passions, on the habitus in general, on grace, and the treatises on the nature of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are removed. Moreover, the treatises on grace and the infused virtues are often sent into dogmatic theology.  To this situation, it must be said: If moral theology does not treat of the nature of the virtues and of the nature of merit, how can it scientifically explain human acts that are salutary through their relation to the supernatural final end?  Science must be knowledge of things through their causes, and the causes of saving and meritorious acts are the infused virtues whose nature must be exactly understood.  But, in many manuals of moral theology, matters proceed in this way: (1) concerning the final end, (2) concerning human acts, (3) concerning laws, (4) concerning conscience, (5) concerning sins, (6) very briefly concerning the virtues in a general manner; after this, there is instituted a treatise concerning moral theology in particular matters in which the three theological virtues are treated, as are the four cardinal virtues, not, however, by determining the nature of these virtues, but by explaining their necessity in an exceedingly brief manner and especially treating of the sins to be avoided against them.  To these matters, there is connected a moral part of the theological treatise on the sacraments