Lumen Scholasticum

Elucubrations, translations, and commentary from a Scholastic and Catholic integralist perspective

Month: January, 2017

Victor Cathrein SJ on society, social activity, and the partition of society

We present today a rather short text on society, taken from an influential manual, the Philosophia moralis of Victor Cathrein, SJ, which went through twenty-one editions. To our knowledge, this work is an abridged Latin recension of his larger two-volume work in German, Moralphilosophie, which may be found here and here. The present translation is taken from Philosophia moralis, IIa pars, lib. II, cap. 1, a. 1-3.



426. We have hitherto considered man according to individual relations; now we shall treat of the same as a member of society. And because natural society is principally twofold, domestic and civil, we shall consider both separately in chapter 2 and 3, the general notions about society having been set forth in chapter 1. In chapter 4, finally, we shall set down the question concerning the relations of diverse civil societies among themselves, that is, of international law.





(Zallinger, Institut. nat. n. 166. Meyer, Institut. iuris nat. I, n. 347.)

427. 1. A society is a moral and stable union of many, working in harmony by their acts toward some common end.

It is called a) a moral union, i.e. of that sort which is effected by spiritual bonds, from which hence there is excluded not only the aggregation of irrational beings, as a crowd of apes, but also a multitude of men brought together into one place and not united except by an external bond, e.g. a multitude of men congregated for market day. For a true society it is required, that its members know the common end, and are secured by mutual duties and rights in an order for willing this end, and, with united powers, attaining it.

b) stable, because a transitory union which is for a momentary end, or which is to be dissolved, its singular endeavor having been completed, is not properly called a society.

428. 2. From these things, it is clear that the material element of society is the multitude, but the formal element is the moral union itself. This moral union is effected by a twofold principle:

a) a common end, which specifies the society and of itself is already capable of effecting, to a certain degree, unity of minds and wills. Nevertheless, for a constant and ordered union in cooperating, taking into account the liberty of men and the diversity of judgments and powers, of itself a common end alone does not suffice, but there is required in addition

b) some element in the real order, which primarily consists in a mutual obligation in respect of the same end. There is further required some principle, which constantly and efficaciously directs free will to the common end, namely authority, which is a necessary element of society and may be defined: the right of obliging members of society, so that they might cooperate by their acts for the common good.

In any society, authority, as the principle of social union, cannot but be one, and ought to inhere in some real subject, and indeed by exclusive right. This subject is called a superior. By reason of social union, society brings forth the similitude of a person, or it institutes a new person—not indeed physical, but moral—which has its own being and activity proper to itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Manualist Monday: Cardinal Billot on the baptism of children, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the baptized

Having returned from our holiday “break”, we present for this Manualist Monday another text on baptism, from the esteemed traditional Jesuit theologian Louis Cardinal Billot’s commentary on the Tertia Pars of St. Thomas. This excerpt, consisting of the two Theses concerning pædobaptism, deals directly with the topic of ecclesial jurisdiction over all the baptized, hence our interest in it. We think it good for the reader to pay special attention to the very important argument that the Cardinal makes in footnote 6, regarding the causal rôle played by human consent in the reception of baptism and the sacramental character thereof.

Card. Louis Billot, De Ecclesiae sacramentis vol. 1, In IIIam, Q. 68, Theses XXVII-XXVIII, pp. 267ff.


(Art. 9).

The children of the faithful are to be baptized. But those baptized in infancy, when they shall have come to the age of discretion, do not have the right of ratifying by their own decision that which the patrons promised in their name, but, whether they wish it or not, they remain perpetually bound by all the obligations of Christians.

Concerning the baptism of infants, the Anabaptists have erred most of all, who, led by Muncer (in 1522) began to teach that no one is rightly baptized unless of adult age, and thus not only did they abstain from baptizing children, but they even rebaptized those who had been baptized as children, whence they claimed the name of Anabaptists for themselves. These ones, amongst all the initiators of the Pseudo-Reformation, stand out for their truculent fierceness; undaunted, they have with implacable logic taken the principles of Protestantism to their ultimate conclusions; and in them, finally, as Bellarmine notes,[1] there appears the greatest rage of Satan against the human race, who, not being content that innumerable souls of adult men have perished through the Lutherans and the Sacramentarians, wished also that the souls of infants should perish through the Anabaptists. But Erasmus, the guide and teacher of all the liberals of our age, inasmuch as he was imbued with the principles of the Protestants wherever, introduced another error. For he taught, that men baptized in infancy, when they had reached manhood, should be asked whether they would ratify what had been promised in their name in baptism; and if they should refuse, they ought to be dismissed free, and not be subjected in any way to the coercion of the Church. Against all of these errors, there advance the Tridentine anathemas, sess. VII, can. 11-14 on baptism: «If anyone should say, that no one is to be baptized, save at that age at which Christ was baptized, or in the very article of death, let him be anathema. — If anyone should say, that little children, having received baptism, for that they have not the act of believing, are not to be accounted amongst the faithful, and furthermore, when they shall arrive at the years of discretion, are to be rebaptized, or that it is preferable that the baptism of such be omitted than that they, not believing by their own act, be baptized in the faith alone of the Church, let him be anathema.» Cf. also the Second Council of Malta, can. 2,[2] and the Fourth Lateran Council, cap. Firmiter.[3]

Moreover, if we speak at present of the children of believers, the reason is not that others are excluded, but that a special question will be considered concerning these others, as has been premised above. Read the rest of this entry »