Yet, despite this problem, our Protestant brethren - with the best of intentions - hold that as long as you make a saving statement of faith, you will be saved, your life will change, all things will be different for you. Indeed, Luther held that, once you gained the perspective of Christ, you could no longer commit a sin that would damn you.
Chris West is now in similar straits and for similar reasons. His recent reply places him in direct and immediate contradiction to both Thomas Aquinas and his only non-scatalogical muse, Pope John Paul II. West says:
In the language of St. Thomas Aquinas, a person who can successfully restrain himself from sin is “continent” but not yet virtuous. Continence falls short of virtue since virtue presupposes a right desire, and this is lacking in the continent person (see Summa, Prima Secundae, q. 58, a. 3, ad 2).Wow! Chris West even quotes the title in the Latin!
I wonder if West really knows any Latin?
But, more to the point, does Aquinas really say continence is not a virtue?
Well, let's look!
First Part of the Second Part (i.e., Prima Secundae)OUCH!
Article 1. Whether continence is a virtue?
Objection 1. It would seem that continence is not a virtue. (Readers of Aquinas already know the gig is up. Whenever a Thomistic objection holds to one position, it is a given that Thomas will demonstrate the opposite is the case).
On the contrary, Every praiseworthy habit would seem to be a virtue. Now such is continence, for Andronicus says [De Affectibus] that "continence is a habit unconquered by pleasure." Therefore continence is a virtue. (See?)
That's gotta sting.
"But wait! Read on, Kellmeyer! Don't you realize that Aquinas contradicts himself just a paragraph later?"
I answer that, The word "continence" is taken by various people in two ways. For some understand continence to denote abstention from all venereal pleasure: thus the Apostle joins continence to chastity (Galatians 5:23). On this sense perfect continence is virginity in the first place, and widowhood in the second. Wherefore the same applies to continence understood thus, as to virginity which we have stated above (Question 152, Article 3) to be a virtue. Others, however, understand continence as signifying that whereby a man resists evil desires, which in him are vehement. On this sense the Philosopher takes continence (Ethic. vii, 7), and thus also it is used in the Conferences of the Fathers (Collat. xii, 10,11). In this way continence has something of the nature of a virtue, in so far, to wit, as the reason stands firm in opposition to the passions, lest it be led astray by them: yet it does not attain to the perfect nature of a moral virtue, by which even the sensitive appetite is subject to reason so that vehement passions contrary to reason do not arise in the sensitive appetite. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 9) that "continence is not a virtue but a mixture," inasmuch as it has something of virtue, and somewhat falls short of virtue.Now, it is true that Aquinas distinguishes two forms of continence: the continence of venereal pleasure versus the continence of resisting the passions through the use of reason. The first is a virtue, the second... well, here's where it gets interesting. Aquinas points out that the Philosopher (Aristotle) didn't think the second was a virtue. But what does Aquinas himself, enlightened with the light of Christ through baptism in a way the Philosopher never was, what does our baptized, enlightened Aquinas say?
If, however, we take virtue in a broad sense, for any principle of commendable actions, we may say that continence is a virtue.And, we would be remiss if we did not point out yet another reference from Aquinas:
First Part of the Second PartNow, THAT leaves a red mark. Quite painful.
Article 10: Whether man possessed of grace needs the help of grace in order to perservere?
I answer that, Perseverance is taken in three ways. First, to signify a habit of the mind whereby a man stands steadfastly, lest he be moved by the assault of sadness from what is virtuous. And thus perseverance is to sadness as continence is to concupiscence and pleasure, as the Philosopher says. Secondly, perseverance may be called a habit whereby a man has the purpose of persevering in good until the end. And in both these ways perseverance is infused together with grace, even as are continence and the other virtues.
"Wait, Kellmeyer!" comes the call. "You're cheating! West doesn't even refer to Question 155! Or Question 109, for that matter! He's telling us to look at Question 58, Article 3! That's where Aquinas contradicts himself and agrees with Chris West!"
Oh, yes, of course. My mistake. How stupid of me. I should look only where Chris points and nowhere else, lest I become confused. Let's go take a look at the question that is so much more on point to whether or not continence is a virtue.
In West's reference, Question 58, Aquinas asks "Whether virtue is adequately divided into moral and intellectual virtues?" That answer is certainly going to be more relevant to the question of whether or not continence is a virtue than anything Aquinas might have to say under the heading "Is continence a virtue?"
[Note: A reader pointed out that the original section below, which had originally observed that continency was not mentioned in Q 58, was based on an erroneous translation. After having found a correct translation, I modified the section below accordingly.]
So, when we turn to Question 58 we see... "continency is not a perfection of the sensitive appetite... so continency and perseverance are not perfections ... [or] virtues" and he uses the continent man as an example to demonstrate the lack of virtue in continence and perseverance.
"Ah! So Aquinas does contradict himself!"
Many people think Aquinas uses the word "continence" in two ways, but he doesn't. Rather, he uses the word "virtue" in two ways. For Thomas, "virtue" can mean "habit" or "virtue" can mean "perfection." The difference is one of duration. A good habit, continued long enough, will lead one to perfection. So a virtuous habit perfects the man who practices it.
However, even before the habit perfects the man, it is still a habit - a virtue.
When Thomas denies that continence and perseverance are virtues in Question 58, but affirms that continence and perseverance are both virtues just a little later in Question 109, and again in Q. 155, he is not contradicting himself. Rather, in Q. 58, he specifically says "continency and perseverance are, however, perfections of the rational faculty."
A continent persevering man displays a virtue of rationality, logic, intellect. The continent man knows when he is in danger, so he runs from it - that's virtuous. The only reason we can't call continence a virtue in the sense of final perfection is due to the fact that the man still has strong passions at all. But since it isn't the role of continence to regulate the passions, but only the reason, continence is not a full moral virtue - it cannot accomplish the perfection of the man on its own.
While continence perfects rationality (and virtues always perfect something), it can't touch the passions, it can't get at one piece that isn't yet perfected, because that's simply not the job of continence. And because it perfects part of man, but does not by itself completely perfect him, in that sense alone it is not a virtue.
Hmmm... is there anything here which may confirm this reading? Well, Aquinas does differentiate here between two kinds of virtue: moral and intellectual.
Why is this important? Well, because Aquinas told us in question 155 (not that Question 155 is relevant, of course, but humor me), that both Aristotle and the Fathers of the Church said of continence "yet it does not attain to the perfect nature of a moral virtue."
"See, Kellmeyer? That means continence is not a virtue at all!"
Well, no, not exactly. As I was saying, Aquinas points out in Question 58 that there are two kinds of virtues: moral and intellectual. Moral virtues perfect appetites, intellectual virtues perfect reason.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church names only four moral virtues: justice, fortitude, temperance and chastity (CCC #1807-1809, 2345).
However, the CCC goes on to list several other virtues: religion (2096), prudence (1806), solidarity (1942, 1948), truthfulness (2486), poverty (2833) and of course, faith, hope and love (theological virtues). None of these virtues are called "moral virtues." But they are all virtues, nonetheless. Indeed, CCC #2349 even says:
2349 "People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single." Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence (emphasis added):So, according to the CCC, continence is a virtue - it is the lived virtue of chastity.
There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.
"No, you're wrong, Kellmeyer!" comes the reply. "What about all the John Paul II quotes that West supplies! John Paul II clearly contradicts Aquinas and the CCC, so JP II and West are right, and you are wrong! Continence is NOT a virtue!"
Oh, contraire, mon frere! Let's look at a what JP II actually says:
In keeping with what has already been said, today we will take up the analysis of the virtue of continence. Continence, which is part of the more general virtue of temperance. Continence consists in the capacity to dominate, control and direct drives of a sexual character (concupiscence of the flesh) and their consequences, in the psychosomatic subjectivity of man. Insofar as it is a constant disposition of the will, this capacity, merits being called a virtue. ..."STOP IT! That's raising actual welts!"
Well, yes, it is.
"Why are you beating one of our own?"
"Are you alright Chris?... Don't worry, dear. I'll make the bad man go away..."
While someone ministers to Chris, let's consider the Pope's words again. John Paul II is simply quoting Aquinas here, without direct attribution to the Summa. Aquinas spends all of Question 155 Article 2 discussing how continence is part of the general virtue of temperance. There's no contradiction between Aquinas, who calls continence a virtue, the CCC, which calls continence a virtue, and Pope John Paul II, who calls continence a virtue.
"Kellmeyer, you are taking the Pope out of context. What about this passage, in which Pope John Paul II clearly tells us we can overcome concupiscence and be free of its effects?"
... In the light of these considerations it is easy to understand that continence is not limited to offering resistance to the concupiscence of the flesh. But through this resistance it is open likewise to those values, more profound and more mature, inherent in the spousal significance of the body in its femininity and masculinity, as well as in the authentic freedom of the gift in the reciprocal relations of the persons.
We are continuing the analysis of the virtue of continence (emphasis has been added by that lustful, evil Kellmeyer. West rightfully warns us that anyone who opposes his interpretations is lustful and evil; they have not yet become one of "the pure ones", i.e., the Catharii, or in modern parlance, a faithful Westian. Be WARNED!) in the light of the doctrine contained in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is well to recall that the great classics of ethical (and anthropological) thought, both the pre-Christian ones and the Christian ones (St. Thomas Aquinas), see in the virtue of continence (Kellmeyer is so evil) not only the capacity to contain bodily and sensual reactions, but even more the capacity to control and guide man's whole sensual and emotive sphere. In the case under discussion, it is a question of the capacity to direct the line of excitement toward its correct development and also the line of emotion itself, orienting it toward the deepening and interior intensification of its pure and, in a certain sense, disinterested character. ...
.. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae devotes due attention to the biological aspect of the question, that is to say, to the rhythmic character of human fertility. In the light of the encyclical, this "periodicalness" can be called a providential index for a responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Nevertheless a question such as this one, which has such a profoundly personalistic and sacramental (theological) meaning, is not resolved only on this level. (See? Are you READING this Kellmeyer?)Well, no, that's not what the Pope is saying.
The encyclical teaches responsible fatherhood and motherhood "as a proof of a mature conjugal love." Therefore it contains not only the answer to the concrete question that is asked in the sphere of the ethics of married life but, as already has been stated it also indicates a plan of conjugal spirituality, which we wish at least to outline. ...
If this salvific fear is directly associated with the negative function of continence (that is, to resistance with regard to concupiscence of the flesh), it is also manifested and to an ever greater degree as this virtue (grrr...) gradually matures as sensitivity filled with veneration for the essential values of the conjugal union: for the two meanings of the conjugal act (or, to use the terminology of the previous analyses, veneration for the interior truth of the mutual language of the body).
On the basis of a profound reference to these two essential values, that which signifies union of the couple is harmonized in the subject with that which signifies responsible fatherhood and motherhood. The gift of respect for what is created by God enables the apparent contradiction in this area to disappear and the difficulty arising from concupiscence to be gradually overcome, thanks to the maturity of the virtue and the power of the Holy Spirit's gift. (See, See? Concupiscence CAN be permanently overcome!)
6. If it is a question of the problem of so-called periodic continence (or recourse to natural methods), the gift of respect for the work of God helps, to the greatest extent, to reconcile human dignity with the natural cycles of fertility, that is, with the biological dimension of the femininity and masculinity of the couple. This dimension also has a significance of its own for the truth of the mutual language of the body in married life.
The problem here is partly one of perception. Years ago, a psychologist did a study in which a group of college students were told an expert, a Nobel prize winner, was going to give a lecture in his area of expertise and they were invited to attend. The lecture, given by an actor, was actually just a pile of gobbledy-gook and catch phrase. It made no coherent sense. Yet, when asked afterwards, all the students said the speech was incredibly profound and deeply insightful. It was certainly difficult material, and merited more profound meditation and study, but everyone affirmed they had definitely benefited as a result of hearing this brilliant man's lecture.
Perception. The students were told the speech had content and the speaker was an authority. They believed it. As a result, when they didn't understand what the lecturer said, they didn't attribute the fault to the lecturer or the material, but to themselves. They just weren't as bright as the "Nobel prize winner." If they just studied more, they would be fine. And they certainly were not going to let on that they didn't get it.
God bless John Paul II, but he was a long-winded man. He took very simple ideas and expressed them in highly complex, often needlessly technical language.
Chris West has built a career off of taking his personal theology, imposing it on John Paul II's obfuscating language, and claiming his "insights" are wonderful simplified versions of JP II's work, specially designed for the common man.
The passages above demonstrate the problem in spades.
The first two paragraphs with bolded remarks simply say "NFP is not just a biological action. You have to approach it with the right intention."
The next two paragraphs just say, "As long as you recognize and respect, as long as you are willing to embrace, the possibility of becoming a parent when you have sex, and you recognize that the physical union with your spouse is meant to be holy, you are ok. Don't be a glutton."
That is really all that is in there.
Chris West makes several references to JP II's writings.
He claims those references support his theology.
How far are you willing to trust a man who mis-directs you on Aquinas (see above), who misrepresents the writings of John the Stylite in order to twist the story of the bishops and the prostitute to his own liking, or who debases the writings of St. Louis de Montfort?
How much do you trust Chris West, a man who actively promotes a New Age spiritualist, a woman who lied about her Carmelite background, a woman whose community is associated with at least one attempted suicide, a woman who praised Buddhism for its corrective to "Christo-fascism"? West was enthralled by her, unable to leave his car as he listened again to her tape set.
Chris West advocates the pursuit of a new purity, a new Catharism. There are the enlightened, the Westians. Then there are the slobs, the rest of us who don't understand his special knowledge.
It is interesting to note that the Westian controversy over the propriety of anal sexual activity was also associated with the original Catharii. The term "bugger" is, according to the semi-reliable Wikipedia, derived from the fact that, like the Westians, the original Catharii also had fewer inhibitions about anal sex than unenlightened Catholics.
The rest of us, unenlightened, lustful, evil slobs that we are, do not have the purity of the Westians. That's our problem, really. We're prudes, snobs, Puritans, Manicheans, and we eat Cheetohs for breakfast. We disgust them. Worse, when we point out their errors, we abuse them. Swine like us shouldn't poke our noses into their pure knowledge, especially in public forums. We should strive to emulate them, pure and holy examples for us all. Don't pay attention to what the texts say - let them interpret the texts. The Westians will make it all clear.
I thought that continence arose from one's own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. (St. Augustine, CCC 2520).Priests face east when they celebrate the Mass because the Fathers have long held that Christ will come from the East at the Parousia. Priests don't face to the West because the West is associated with error, deception and, ultimately, condemnation. Take the advice of the Fathers. Don't go West, young man.