"Problems and Prospects"
ROME, 24 FEB. 2007 (ZENIT)
Here is the speech delivered in English by
the theologian for the Pontifical Household, Dominican Father Wojciech
Giertych, at the conclusion of the international congress on natural law
organized by the Pontifical Lateran University.
The congress was entitled "The Moral Natural Law: Problems and
Prospects," and took place Feb. 12-14.
* * *
New Prospects for the Application of the Natural Moral Law
1) Difficulty with question
I have been asked to speak today about new prospects for the application
of the natural moral law. I have some difficulty with this question as
it was proposed to me.
What is it that the organizers of today's conference are hoping for?
Does the question maybe suggest a hidden deception caused by the
widespread rejection of the concept of the natural moral law in the
ethical culture of the Western world? Is the invitation to speak on this
topic a desperate call to hope that the theory of the natural moral law
will once more be universally recognized as valid and useful? Are we
really seeing signs of a new renaissance in which the theory of the
natural law is being excavated not as a mere archaeological artifact of
a past metaphysical period of history, but as a useful tool enabling us
to explain and justify the needed foundations of morality, and is it
really my task to announce this rediscovery with joy?
The term "new prospects" may suggest that there are new fields of human
activity that have not hitherto been viewed sufficiently, or at all, in
the light of the natural moral law, and that now there is an occasion to
do so. This of course is always true. As social life develops and
becomes more complex, new moral questions appear, and they need to be
analyzed in the light of moral principles.
The impressive development of the medical technologies raises ethical
questions that have never been raised before, and this forces
bioethicists to study these issues and elucidate them. Also, changes in
social structures and economic processes raises ethical questions,
although these are not necessarily studied with such precision and
fervor as bioethical questions.
With the universal failure of Marxist ideologies that had tried to
instill a temporal hope in the realm of politics and economics through
extensive government action, now belief in the presence of the "hidden
hand" of the laws of economics leading, supposedly naturally and
automatically, to welfare and peace seems to prevail. Are there not
serious moral questions to be raised however, concerning the globalized
economy and its politics, with factories no longer being like pyramids
offering stability, employment and hope for economic betterment, but
being like tents in the desert, which one day are here and another day
are moved to another continent, causing unemployment, migration and
separation of families?
Decisions made in banks and governments of one country sometimes cause
intense hardship and social and political crises in another country or
continent. New issues of international politics, such as ecological
problems, and old issues, such as peace in conflict areas, require the
working out of procedures and agreements on international governance.
The increasing mobility of populations, having diverse social and moral
traditions, raises questions of their social interaction. The working
out of public policies particularly in such fields as social welfare,
education and health care requires a common understanding of the nature
of the person, of the family, of parental rights and responsibilities,
as also an understanding of differing cultural habits.
This common intellectual basis, certainly in the Western world, is more
and more difficult to attain as vociferous nihilist and skeptic pressure
groups refuse to accept any binding statements about moral truth,
supposedly in the name of tolerance. The contemporary increasingly
extensive social interaction is raising many new moral problems, and
these certainly can be seen as a new prospect for the application of the
natural moral law, or rather, as a new task for moralists, who can apply
the eternal principles of the natural law to the new issues.
Are these new moral dilemmas in all possible fields of human activity,
private, social and public, to be studied in the light of natural law
with the same precision as casuist cases raised in the field of
bioethics are studied? Or should more room be left for political
prudence and the personal judgment of those directly responsible in
Certainly these are fields for ethical reflection, although the optimism
of the authors of the old casuist manuals of moral theology, who
imagined that all possible future moral situations could be analyzed,
and final judgment could be passed on all of them, is now seen to be
have been tainted with a certain intellectual pride. The complexity of
new moral issues, and the velocity in which they appear, may mean that
many of them will cease to become dilemmas, and they will never be
subjected to serious moral analysis.
The "new prospects" of the title of my conference may suggest that there
is now a renewed interest in the natural moral law, and that in the face
of moral dilemmas there is a fresh search for natural law thinking.
In his day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer regretted that natural law reflection
disappeared from Protestant ethics which limited itself to a static
apology of divine grace, juxtaposed against a totally fallen nature.
Since no meaningful distinctions could be made between the natural and
unnatural, because both were equally condemned, the natural life, with
its concrete decisions and relationships, ceased to be an area of
responsibility before God.
This meant that Protestantism was unable to give a clear answer to
burning moral questions of the natural life, and Bonhoeffer lamented
this. Are there contemporary signs of a renewed interest for the natural
law, offering "new prospects" for our societies?
If there are, they are not yet visible. In fact, in the Western world,
at least in the public sphere, there is bleeding atrophy of
understanding what is natural and what is not, leading to changes in
ethical mores that are amounting to a profound revolution of the
foundations of civilization. These changes are not taking place in the
name of some forceful ideology, capable of mustering the support of
as was the case with nationalism and communism, both of which had an
altruist element within them
but in the name of pure hedonism and anti-rationalist skepticism, hidden
under the mask of tolerance.
There is a rapid decline of appreciation of basic moral truths and of
the capacity of seeing what is obvious, in the name of that which is
fleeting, ephemeral, and therefore not intrinsically binding. Will the
social and political approval of gay marriages, of the adoption of
children by gays and lesbians, of divorce, of contraception, abortion,
euthanasia, the manipulation of embryos and laissez-faire theories of
education finally arrive at the point of total absurdity, causing as a
backlash a desperate return to rationality in ethics? We may certainly
hope so in our wishful thinking, but for a few generations, the return
to moral sanity may turn out to be too late.
The present close interaction of differing civilizations, [which]
hopefully [...] will not end in violent clashes, may generate a new
interest in the ethical foundations of civilizations. Today, contrary to
what the Krakow-based Polish historian and theorist of civilizations,
Feliks Koneczny, wrote in the early part of the 20th century, there is a
belief and hope that full integration of people belonging to differing
civilizations is possible and even welcome.
Koneczny claimed that it is not possible to be civilized in two
differing ways at the same time, because it is common ethical
convictions that generate social cohesiveness and condition
civilizations. Ethical standards are more decisive for a civilization
than dogmatic subtleties.
In the past, when people belonging to different civilizations lived
geographically close to each other, they had to live in separate social
groups according to the mores of the entity to which they belonged,
without mixing, because mixtures of differing civilizations cannot
function in the long run. The transfer from one civilization to another
would entail the embracing of a completely new set of ethical values
that would require social uprooting.
"Will a monogamist sell his daughter to a polygamist?" Koneczny asked.
If he would, for whatever reason, he would have crossed the threshold of
a new civilization, leaving the one to which he had belonged. When
civilizations mix, Koneczny claimed, it is normally the less morally
demanding civilization that wins, because the maintaining of a demanding
ethos requires effort and perseverance.
Among the civilizations that he had studied, Koneczny specified the
Latin civilization as the most demanding, because it requires that all
dimensions of life, including the social and political, be bound by
ethical norms. Today, however, Western Europe is rapidly losing, or
totally transforming, its age-old Christian ethical convictions, and in
this it is drifting away from the moral foundations in which for
centuries it was anchored.
At the same time, it is facing more and more directly a foreign Islamic
civilization. Will this encounter finally force Western Europe to
seriously wonder about what is the real source of its specificity, and
to an urgent defense of its own traditional moral fiber? Will it lead to
a re-appreciation of the inherited anthropological and ethical
foundations that made democracy work, or will the washing away of these
foundations cause the crash of Western civilization, just as the crash
of communism was caused by its anthropological catastrophe?
Pope John Paul II, as he elevated St. Edith Stein to the rank of
co-patroness of Europe, warned: "A Europe, that would change the value
of tolerance and universal respect into ethical indifferentism and
skepticism about values that cannot be forsaken, would open itself to
most risky ventures and sooner or later it would see appearing in new
forms the most dreadful phantoms of its own history." Will the
urgency of these questions lead to a new rediscovery of the importance
of the natural law? We may hope so.
Finally, the invitation to search for "new prospects" for the
application of the natural moral law maybe suggests a renewed interest
for the natural law within moral theology, in particular after the papal
encyclicals "Veritatis Splendor" and "Fides et Ratio."
Certainly, a purely kerygmatic and biblical approach to moral formation
is not sufficient if it is not coupled with a sound anthropology and
metaphysically grounded thinking. The invitation to do what Jesus would
have done had he been in our position cannot function as a basic
intuitive moral rule if rational thinking will be discarded.
A Christian moral formation needs to refer to the permanent structure of
human nature and to its finality that can be perceived also rationally,
although with difficulty, because reason has been wounded, but not
destroyed, by original sin. Is the role of the natural law within the
synthesis of moral theology the "new prospect" that I have been asked to
reflect upon? Or are there maybe some other "new prospects" that I have
failed to notice?
2) Birth of a new ethics
Certainly a new prospect that we are facing, which is demanding a
response, is the contemporary birth of a new ethics. In the last 20
years, in many countries of the Western world, a whole new series of
ethical concepts has appeared, expressing a certain moral awareness and
a perception of moral dilemmas, but at the same manifesting a
fundamental epistemological flaw.
Crossing boundaries of nations and states, the media are using the same
new concepts which express attitudes and preconceptions that are
assessed either positively or negatively. We read about a global ethics,
about cultural liberty, dialogue between civilizations, the quality of
life, informed choice, gender equality, single-parenting, sexual
orientation, bodily integrity, same-sex marriage, right of choice,
reproductive rights, women's rights, children's rights, the right to
die, transparency, holism, inclusiveness, nondiscrimination, ecological
awareness, solidarity, openness and tolerance, and we read also about
new vices such as exclusiveness, apartheid, homophobia, sexual
molestation, populism, ultra-Catholicism.
At the same time traditional moral concepts such as truth, conscience,
moral law, reason, moral virtue, perseverance, fidelity, parents,
spouses, virginity, chastity, authority, commandments, sin, and nature
This is coupled with profound social and moral changes. The number of
those who in their lives will never have the chance to use such words
like father, brother, sister, aunt or uncle is increasing, while new
terms like partner, or former wife are becoming more common.
The appearance of these new moral concepts is coupled with an immediate
normative qualification, the foundations of which are not philosophical,
but political and ideological.
No serious ethical reflection has attempted to define precisely the new
terms, which remain, as if purposely vague, while their application or
the rejection of previous terms is decided by politicians and by media
empires. It is they who decide about the meaning or the change of
meaning of such words as marriage, or family, which tragic events may be
described as genocide and which may not, what is an expression of a
justified liberty of interpretation and what is unacceptable dogmatism,
or that homosexual activity may not be defined as a psychic disorder or
as a sin.
The new ethical terms are interconnected and mutually supportive, while
at the same time they are blurred. Some of them can be interpreted in a
traditional way, but they are mostly used in a deconstructive manner,
weakening the attachment to moral values and replacing it with an
approval of blatantly immoral behavior, caused by the underlying
cognitive skepticism of the new ethic.
This new ethic is at the same time individualistic and global, but never
personalistic or universal. It witnesses the screening out of the family
and of the nation-state, and the growth of supranational, global
institutions, pressure groups and ideologies. The new ethic has a direct
impact on education, on social welfare and health care, on taxation
systems, on codes of behavior in institutions and enterprises, and on
public, national and global policies. This new global ethic has appeared
in a silent way, with no revolution and no social upheavals. It is
engineered in a soft way, and it has succeeded in influencing not only
policies, but above all the mentalities of people.
In itself, the appearance of new virtues is not anything new. The names
of virtues express a moral awareness, which is always culturally
conditioned. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his magisterial study of the
virtues, came across some moral sensibilities for which he did not have
an appropriate Latin term, and so he held on to their Greek terms,
writing about the virtues of "epikeia," "synesis" and "gnome."
The modern appearance of positive terms such as solidarity or tolerance,
or of negative terms such as egoism, which do not appear in the
classical catalogue of virtues and vices, manifests the development of
moral awareness and the formulation of terms to describe it. The
understanding of how to live out a virtuous life is always socially
conditioned, and cultural expectations and their verbal formulations
have an impact on moral sensibility.
The present greater social interaction of a globalized world accounts
for the migration of moral perceptions. What in one period of history or
culture was seen as shocking, in another culture is marginalized, while
attentiveness to other injustices is sharpened. The present problem lies
however, not in the fact that new moral concepts have been formulated
that express new virtues, but in the fact that these concepts are not
clear and precise, even as they function, and so this presents a
challenge for ethicists to study them in the light of the objective,
nature-based moral order, and to ensure that their meaning will become
clear and purified of moral relativism.
3) A comparison with classical virtue theory
St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa of theology studied over 50 moral
virtues, clearly defining their nature, their location in the human
psyche, their mutual interconnection, their dependence upon the
supernatural order of grace, granted through the theological virtues and
the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and their correlation with the
commandments. He did not however, attempt to deduce all the virtues
directly and logically from the commandments or from the basic
principles of the natural law, because he primarily saw the virtues as
manifestations of the moral responsibility and creativity of the
individual acting agent, as he faces the truth, and not as a catalogue
of externally imposed moral obligations.
The commandments play an important pedagogical role in excluding evil
action, but good acts flow more directly from the generosity of the
mature individual, who perceives directly the true goodness or the evil
of an action, irrespectively of whether it has been commanded of
forbidden. The prime function in moral education consists therefore
in enabling the individual to grasp the "verum bonum," the true good in
the heart of the moral dilemma, toward which his nature has a natural
inclination, and to respond to it freely, generously and creatively.
And when Aquinas discussed the opposite vices, he saw them primarily as
a subtraction, as the lack of that good which could have come about
through the virtue. The entire ethos, precisely analyzed by Aquinas is a
theological attempt to present for pedagogical reasons, the fecundity of
grace manifesting itself in the mature, virtuous person, who becomes an
icon of God.
To appropriately interpret Aquinas's virtue theory, it has to be viewed
in unison with other studies of Aquinas. Within the structure of the
Summa, Aquinas included an important treatise on the moral law that
instructs the acting agent about the good.
The moral law was viewed by Aquinas primarily from the angle of the
history of salvation, focusing on different relationships of God with
humanity. The natural law, the law of the old dispensation, and the new
law of grace, speak of different states of humanity, but they combine in
offering the multifarious ways of divine guidance for moral action. The
economy of the old law or of the new law of grace does not therefore
dispense from the profiting from the light, which is available in the
natural moral law.
Within the life of grace, in which openness to the grace of the Holy
Spirit is primary, there is also room for rational reflection. Faith
does not blind reason. It makes it more lucid, and so the inherent
finality of beings, that reason alone can perceive, although with
difficulty, supplies a helpful guiding light in the perception of the "verum
bonum" in virtuous action. Since both creation and redemption are acts
of the same, coherent God, there is no basic contradiction between the
revealed law, the law of grace, and the natural law.
The grasping of the fundamental precepts of the natural moral law,
whether undertaken theologically within the realm of faith, or outside
it, comes about through the intuition of the "instinctus rationis" that
perceives the ordering of nature toward that which is most appropriate
to it. It is through the fundamental orientations of the reason and the
will, ordering that good is to be pursued and evil avoided, followed by
the perception of the metaphysical natural inclinations of being, that
tends to preserve existence, of animality that tends to transmit life
and educate offspring, and of rationality that strives for supreme truth
which includes the truth about God
and for community life based upon that truth, that conclusions about the
true good in moral action can be arrived at.
The fundamental precepts of the natural law are perceived through the
metaphysical intuition of the finality of being, and not through a
sociological observation of moral sensibilities that may be deformed by
customs or depraved habits, although the fundamental moral precepts are
corroborated by theological arguments. Obviously, the theological
conviction, confirmed by the dogmatic truth of creation, that human
nature is stable with an inbuilt orientation coming from the Creator,
contributes to the perception of an objective moral order.
A theory of being that would exclude the possibility of a dependence on
the Creator would jeopardize the stability of nature and its capacity to
offer a binding light, illuminating human behavior. Aquinas' theory of
the natural law was not purely philosophical, but it referred also to
theological arguments. His reference to nature, reason and Scripture in
the working out of the theory of natural law may appear to be circular,
but this was not a vicious circle; it was a presentation of the overall
harmony of all the sources of moral orientation.
A full appreciation of Aquinas' virtue theory and of his interpretation
of the natural law has also to take into account the fruits of his
serious academic study, reported in the "Quaestiones disputatae," and
entitled "De veritate," although this work should really be split into
two parts, with the second named "De bonitate."
In this extensive and intensive intellectual endeavor, Aquinas studied
the nature and the functioning of the intellect in its adherence to
truth as its appropriate object and the nature and the functioning of
the will as it is captivated by goodness. The first part of the study
analyzes truth itself, God's knowledge of it, the ideas of God, the word
of God, divine providence and the knowledge of God in predestination.
This is followed by a reflection on the cognition of angels, followed by
a study of the human mind, which is an image of the Trinity. This
includes an analysis of the transmission of knowledge by a teacher, of
the working of the mind in prophecy and spiritual rapture, of the
intellect conditioned by the virtue of faith, of practical knowledge in
the synderesis and in conscience, and finally a particular reflection on
the cognition of the first parents before original sin and of the
cognition of the soul after death.
This extensive theological epistemology ends in a reflection on the
knowledge of the unique soul of Christ. In the second part of the study,
a similar procedure is followed with a study of goodness and its
appetition by the will. As with the cognitive faculties, Aquinas looks
into the will of God, into the free choice in which the will and reason
combine in freely choosing goodness, and then into factors which in
humans condition the willing from without, such as the sensuality, the
emotions and finally grace which leads to the justification of the
impious. The study terminates with a reflection on the working of grace
in the unique human soul of Christ.
This extensive analysis of the nature and the functioning of the
spiritual faculties as they move toward the "verum bonum," focused on
their inherent finality, and viewed also from the specific angles that
are their presence in God, in the angels, in humans before and after the
fall as also after receiving the redemptive power of grace, and in the
unique person of Jesus Christ, God and man, offers a profound and
optimistic context for the elucidation and formation of virtuous action.
Only if there is a deep conviction that the truth about goodness can be
known, and that in the spiritual appetitive power there is inherent
attraction to it, can the personal choice of virtuous action be
grounded. Furthermore, when the spiritual faculties are enriched by the
grace of faith and charity, their fundamental orientations to truth and
goodness are strengthened.
The metaphysical structure of the transcendentals and of the spiritual
faculties as they correspond to them, supplies therefore the background
for the virtuous response to moral dilemmas as they appear. If this
metaphysical grounding of being were to be questioned or even denied,
both anthropology and ethics would be hanging in the air.
Returning therefore to contemporary questions, it has to be said that
the fact that with the globalization of human interaction and with the
wider spectrum of moral challenges, new concepts of new virtues are
being formulated to which correspond real responses, is not in itself
perplexing. This is a normal development of moral awareness as it is
facing new challenges, to which it tries to respond.
What is perplexing, however, is that these new concepts of new virtues
are nebulous or ambivalent, and deprived of any rooting in coherent and
certain knowledge about the human person, about human nature and its
finality. If in the name of tolerance, no certain knowledge may be had
about anything, if no one is entitled to declare that he holds any
truths as true and therefore universally binding, there is no place for
any virtue at all, and all supposedly value-charged statements are in
The contemporary exertion of political pressure to change the meaning of
as is happening in the case of the word marriage
or the demanding of special privileges in the name of a moral condition
that has been expanded so widely and confusingly that it encompasses
blatantly contradictory values
as is happening in the case of the term reproductive rights, which is to
include at the same time concern for maternity and paternity, and the
right to free access to contraception, abortion and the artificial
production of parentless babies
voids the new moral language of any instinctive obviousness, which means
that the new ethic if it is to be maintained, will have to be enforced
by brute political pressure with no rational justification.
No longer finding support in human nature and in the "instinctus
rationis," the new ethic is condemned to the status of a devastating
ideology that in time will be rejected once its catastrophic effects
will become unashamedly visible. The question is, will it be replaced by
another, equally nefarious and nihilist ideology, lay or even religious
(Puritan or fundamentalist), or will it be replaced by a return to the
respect of the cognitive capacities of the human mind, of the
intelligibility of human nature, its finality and its basic goodness,
and to a confidence in the basic goodness of the reason and will as they
are attracted by supreme goodness?
Resistance to natural law ethics
Why is it that the natural law ethics meets today with such a wide
Is this caused by the weakness of the mind, which has been conditioned
excessively by ideologies and philosophical assumptions that have
impaired its capacity to see the truth, or are there other causes?
In the Enlightenment, reason was elevated above faith that was treated
as superstition and myth in the conviction that reason alone, freed from
prejudices and any external sentimental interferences may arrive at true
cognition with accuracy and precision. This intellectual pride of
reason, which set itself its own method and sphere of activity ended
finally in the self-limitation of positivism, in which reason
arbitrarily limits not only its own possibility of knowing, but even the
existence of that reality which it cannot ascertain and measure
according to its own arbitrarily chosen methods.
The refusal to view the metaphysical ground of reality is a form of
enslavement of the reason that locks itself in its own self-defined
prison. As such this refusal becomes an ideology that blocks the mind
and disenables it from seeing what to another more open mind is obvious.
Skepticism about the cognitive possibilities of the mind ends in
shortsightedness that is ultimately nihilist.
In a paradoxical historical development, today it is the Church that is
defending the dignity of reason, and inviting the minds of thinkers not
to stop short and to reach out to the fullness of reality that can be
known. The reductive self-limitations of the mind however contribute
to the nihilist and relativist moral climate, which denies the existence
of the natural moral order and leaves the new moral virtues reacting to
new moral challenges suspended in a nebulous groundless atmosphere,
prone to whatever ideological winds, fashions and political
manipulations, may appear.
Is the contemporary resistance to the natural law caused primarily by
epistemological weaknesses, or are there maybe other reasons, which
cause the rejection of an objective, rationally cognizable moral order?
While it is true that anti-intellectual fundamentalisms, whether of a
religious or secular nature, may generate a psychological paralysis of
the mind, are there not also other factors causing the shirking away
from truth, even if the mind is naturally inclined toward it? Should we
not look into factors that have constrained the will, both from within
and from without, and disenabled it from persevering in the truth once
it has been known?
It is not only philosophical assumptions and the weak mind that generate
a resistance to the light of the natural law, but also the deformations
or rather the lack of formation and of support of the will, which
generate this resistance. The reason may see, even clearly, the truth of
a moral challenge, and yet the person may refrain from adhering to it,
precisely because what is missing is the moral stamina that would permit
the creative and mature free choice of the "verum bonum," as it has been
truly seen. And when moral truth has been rejected, primarily due to
moral weakness, the intellect then easily succumbs to the temptation of
retreating from truth and to the espousing of confused relativist and
skeptic theories that would justify the previously made decision to
escape from the known truth.
In this context, it is good to remember the words of St. Paul who wrote
about the depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their
wickedness. For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them
since God himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world,
his everlasting power and deity
have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made. That is
why such people are without excuse: They knew God, and yet refused to
honor him as God or to thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of
logic and their empty minds were darkened. The more they called
themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew (Romans 1:18-22).
Paul's acerbic language did not aim uniquely at ridiculing the
intellectual pride of the philosophers, nor did it intend to throw
moralizing accusations at those culpable for the moral depravation of
the society of his times. It was a preliminary step toward his preaching
of Christ and the annunciation of justification through faith.
It is through faith in Christ that the grace of the Holy Spirit is
received, which infused in the reason and the will enables growth in
charity and moral responsibility. In wondering about the reservations
about the natural moral law in contemporary Western culture, should we
not also note the insufficient initiation into the life of grace in the
past and maybe even present Christian moral teaching, depriving those
who have engraved in their consciences and hearts the moral intuitions
coming from their instinct of nature (Romans 2:15) of the only available
power making the adherence to the verum bonum truly possible?
Both the quoted text of St. Paul and the teaching of Aquinas on the
natural law are presented within a vision of faith. It is of course true
that a rational discourse on the moral order should be able to stand on
its own without the support of faith, but this does not mean that the
practical living out of the ethos presented by the natural law is
possible without the life of grace. Even Adam, according to Aquinas,
in the state of original justice needed the support of grace, although
he did not need to apply that grace to so many wounded spheres of human
existence as we do.
Moral teaching needs to be coupled with an initiation into the spiritual
life grounded in Christ, as without it, reduced to a Pelagian rigorism,
it generates an instinctive defensive reaction. It should come as no
surprise that non-Christians, when told about the possibility of living
out the ethos of the Sermon of the Mount on the basis of a personal
relationship with Christ are intrigued and fascinated, while
argumentation based on metaphysical principles and the natural law does
not seem to convince them.
The purpose of the natural law reflection is to show that the high
ethos, made possible through faith in Christ, is not a deformation of
nature, but an eliciting of the profoundest inclinations already
existing within nature. That is why the graced person is pleasing in his
or her naturalness.
This does not however mean that the preaching of Christ within the moral
order is optional, and that moral propriety may be socially guaranteed
uniquely on the basis of a natural law morality. The suggestion that one
may successfully engage in moral discourses exclusively on the level of
"etsi Deus non daretur" [as if God didn't exist]
in view of convincing intellectually nonbelievers may be a noble cause,
but it is condemned to failure.
Too much is expected then from the rational discourse, which cannot in
itself supply such a force of conviction that would move the heart,
influence the will and enable perseverance in moral truth. Whereas, an
introduction into the spiritual life illuminates the mind, opening it to
the mysterious perspective of encountering God and it strengthens the
will enabling it to persevere in its attachment to the true good,
without in any way, denying the value of the clarity of natural law
In response therefore to the question that was addressed to me, I
conclude that as new moral challenges are facing the world and as new
moral sensibilities are being noted and expressed, they require the
intellectual support of ethicists, who will work out the clear
metaphysical foundations of the new moral perceptions.
This endeavor in itself, however, while desirable, is insufficient. What
is primarily needed is the proclamation of the new law of grace, exactly
within the moral challenges and dilemmas. Reflection on moral
responsibilities needs to be undertaken, "etsi Deus daretur," believing
in the fullness of God's gift that includes not only the creation of the
cosmos with its inherent recognizable order, but also the redemption
given through Jesus Christ and the accompanying grace of the Holy
It is in the light of this renewing gift of grace that not only the
functioning of the intellect, but also the functioning of the will and
the dynamism of the affectivity, as also the practical responses to
concrete moral challenges need to be viewed. Not only "fides et ratio,"
a study of reason in the light of faith, but also "fides et liberum
arbitrium" [free will], and "fides et passio" [passion] are needed.
* * *
 Ethics (New York, 1955), p. 143-144.
 Feliks Koneczny, "Prawa Dziejowe" [Laws of History], (London, 1982),
 Motu Proprio Spes Aedificandi, 10: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo
II, XXII, 2 (1999), p. 513.
 Marguerite A. Peeters, "La nouvelle éthique mondiale: défis pour
l'Église," (Institut pour une Dynamique de Dialogue Interculturel,
 Epikeia is the virtue of applying to law according to the true mind
of the legislator in situations not specified by the letter of the law.
Synesis is the virtue of good judgment about acts according to the
common law. Gnome is the virtue of good judgment according to higher
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Super II ad Cor., l. 3, c. 3: "Ille ergo, qui
vitat mala, non quia mala, sed propter mandatum Domini, non est liber;
sed qui vitat mala, quia mala, est liber."
 Jean Porter, "Natural and Divine Law. Reclaiming the Tradition for
Christian Ethics," (Ottawa: Novalis; Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Eerdmans,
1995), p. 140-141.
 John Paul II, "Fides et Ratio," 56.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, qu. 95, art. 4, ad 1:
"Homo post peccatum ad plura indiget gratia quam ante peccatum, sed non
 Servais Pinckaers, O.P., "Les sources de la morale chrétienne. Sa
méthode, son contenu, son histoire," (Fribourg : Éditions Universitaires,
Paris: Cerf, 1985), p. 171.
[Original text: English. Text adapted]