sententiarum collectio

Category: Law & Society (Page 1 of 6)

If they chance see a man among them

Just as, all too often,
some huge crowd is seized by a vast uprising,
the rabble runs amok, all slaves to passion,
rocks, firebrands flying. Rage finds them arms
but then, if they chance to see a man among them,
one whose devotion and public service lend him weight,
they stand there, stock-still with their ears alert as
he rules their furor with his words and calms their passion.
So the crash of the breakers all fell silent once their Faither,
gazing over his realm under clear skies, flicks his horses,
giving them free rein, and his eager chariot flies.

Virgil, The Aeneid

The Will: from Control to Attack

“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

“The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

“But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.

Humanae Vitae, 1968 (emphasis added)

***Fast forward***

“The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will. “

-Douglas Farrow, Theological Negotiations, 2018

The foes already have possess’d the wall

“To this the spectre no reply did frame,
But answer’d to the cause for which he came,
And, groaning from the bottom of his breast,
This warning in these mournful words express’d:
‘O goddess-born! escape, by timely flight,
The flames and horrors of this fatal night.
The foes already have possess’d the wall;
Troy nods from high, and totters to her fall.
Enough is paid to Priam’s royal name,
More than enough to duty and to fame.
If by a mortal hand my father’s throne
Could be defended, ’twas by mine alone.
Now Troy to thee commends her future state,
And gives her gods companions of thy fate:
From their assistance walls expect,
Which, wand’ring long, at last thou shalt erect.’
He said, and brought me, from their blest abodes,
The venerable statues of the gods,
With ancient Vesta from the sacred choir,
The wreaths and relics of th’ immortal fire.

Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 2

No doubt what lies in the future…

“I think there can be no doubt what lies in the future for Rome. When a state has warded off many serious threats, and has come to attain undisputed supremacy and sovereignty, it is easy to see that, after a long period of settled prosperity, lifestyles become more extravagant, and rivalry over political positions and other such projects becomes fiercer than it should be. If these processes continue for very long, society will change for the worse. The causes of the deterioration will be lust for power combined with contempt for political obscurity, and personal ostentation and extravagance. It will be called a democratic revolution, however, because the time will come when the people will feel abused by some politicians’ self-seeking ambition, and will have been flattered into vain hopes by others’ lust for power. Under these circumstances, all their decisions will be motivated by anger and passion, and they will no longer be content to be subject or even equal to those in power. When this happens, the new constitution will be described in the most attractive terms, as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy,’ but in fact it will be the worst of all constitutions, mob-rule.”

Polybius, “The Histories” (Book 6), c.250 BC

Before removing fences…

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

G.K. Chesterton, The Thing, “The Drift from Domesticity” (1929)

The Ruling Class

This is our concern, that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquillity; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependants, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. Let kings estimate their prosperity, not by the righteousness, but by the servility of their subjects. Let the provinces stand loyal to the kings, not as moral guides, but as lords of their possessions and purveyors of their pleasures; not with a hearty reverence, but a crooked and servile fear. Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbor, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement. If such happiness is distasteful to any, let him be branded as a public enemy; and if any attempt to modify or put an end to it let him be silenced, banished, put an end to. Let these be reckoned the true gods, who procure for the people this condition of things, and preserve it when once possessed.

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God

A Humane Economy

Of what avail is any amount of well-being, if at the same time, we steadily render the world more vulgar, uglier, noisier, and drearier and if we lose the moral and spiritual foundations of their existence? Man simply does not live by radio, automobiles, and refrigerators alone but by the whole unpurchasable world beyond the market and turnover figures, the world of dignity, beauty, poetry, grace, chivalry, love, and friendship, the world of community, variety of life, freedom, and fullness of personality.

– Wilhelm Ropke, A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market (1960) (Available for free download here.)

A little rebellion now and then is a good thing

Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. Without government, as among our Indians. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787 (See copy of letter here.)

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