Read Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law by Shadia B. Drury Online


In this startling book, Drury overturns the long-standing reputation of Thomas Aquinas as the most rational exponent of the Christian faith. She reveals that Aquinas as one of the most zealous Dominicans (Domini Canes) or Hounds of the Lord. The book contains incisive criticisms of Aquinas's reconciliation of faith and reason, his defense of papal supremacy, his justificatIn this startling book, Drury overturns the long-standing reputation of Thomas Aquinas as the most rational exponent of the Christian faith. She reveals that Aquinas as one of the most zealous Dominicans (Domini Canes) or Hounds of the Lord. The book contains incisive criticisms of Aquinas's reconciliation of faith and reason, his defense of papal supremacy, his justification of the Inquisition, his insistence on the persecution of Jews, and his veneration of celibacy. Far from being an antiquarian exercise, Drury shows why the study of Aquinas is relevant to the politics of the twenty-first century, where the primacy of faith over reason has experienced a revival. The current pope, Benedict XVI, relies heavily on Aquinas when prescribing cures for the ills of modernity. For Drury, religion is as incompatible with political moderation and sobriety in our time as it was in the thirteenth century. This is why she defends a secular version of Aquinas's theory of natural law_a theory that he betrayed in favor of what she calls 'the politics of salvation.'...

Title : Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law
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ISBN : 9780742522589
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 209 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law Reviews

  • Paul Rhodes
    2019-04-29 15:28

    Professor Drury is a liberal but one who is keenly aware of the shortcomings of liberalism. She really loves pluralism, for instance, but really, really hates that it is susceptible to a relativism that eviscerates any knowable moral standard, without which society will sink into either anarchy or tyranny. Therefore, Drury is ambivalent about Aquinas. She hates him because he defended the Inquisition which savagely suppressed religious pluralism but finds his natural law theory full of promise. Unfortunately, this promise was dashed by Thomas' religious zealotry which made him think that what by Drury's lights could only be his own idiosyncratic concept of the divine law trumped all concerns for the universal natural law. Had he not been such a religiously blinkered bigot, Drury suggests he would have been the John Locke of 13th Century. But no. Leaving aside the dubious claim that Locke's theory of natural right captures the natural law as such, I find it fascinating that a liberal wants us to think seriously about the natural law. Drury is rightly afraid of the lunacies of post-modernism and legal positivism. The former is anarchy, the latter tyranny. And Drury is right to believe that natural law, if it can be found and, more importantly, command a democratic consensus, it will provide a certain truth that will protect us against both evils. But Drury, remember, is at heart, despite all her misgivings, a liberal. In fact, a liberal in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and as such thinks the state's protection of pluralism of belief is the non-negotiable sine qua non of the entire liberal project. People must be allowed to believe what they list. Otherwise, you get an inquisition, and the liberal project goes up in flames of an auto-de-fé. Fine. But Natural Law Theory is predicated upon an essentialist anthropology. In other words, Natural Law Theory puts forward a definite belief about man that is supposed to be true everywhere and at all times. And for Natural Law Theory to be the basis of a regime, only one such theory can be adopted. There are conflicting Natural Law Theories after all. For instance, Aristotle and Aquinas thought the Natural Law basis for property was need. Locke thought it was labor. So, which Natural Law Theory do we pick? We can't have a government picking a plurality of them because then it would be divided against itself, and that would hardly be a remedy against post-modern absurdity. Drury surely doesn't want that. But if a regime picks one theory and orders its subjects to believe it, then so much for Drury's beloved pluralism. Professor Drury is quite obviously in a dilemma.Drury is too smart, of course, not to realize this, but her only answer is that we must know that there is a certain Natural Law simply because both post-modernism and legal positivism are just too ridiculous or frightening to be true. So, we just have to think really hard about Natural Law and have long talks about it. Fine, but we've already talked about this stuff for nearly three millennia, and there is still no agreement on what is natural for the Human Being. The post-modernist, as silly as he may be, might have at least one good point when he says that this conversation ain't never gonna end and we might as well just make fun of it. And the legal positivist, as fascist as he certainly is, recognizes at least this much, that society can't rely on an endless seminar for its rules. There will be resigned skeptics and impatient tyrants until Natural Law Theorists come up with a concept of man that is as self-evidently true as the most basic of arithmetical equations, and even then... Gödel, call your office.

  • Peter Bradley
    2019-05-18 17:02

    Please give this review a helpful vote at bona fide historian Robert Louis Wilken has once stated that, "every act of historical understanding is an act of empathy." Without some empathy, some attempt to understand the historical person in their own context and from their own perspective, there can be absolutely no understanding of the person’s life or thought. Instead, the reflection on the life and thought of the person becomes an extended morality play that is either a hagiography or a biased polemic or polemical. In Drury’s case you get a hagiography of opponents of the Catholic Church, such as Origen and the Cathars, who had a far more dismal opinion about sexuality than Aquinas, and a biased polemic against Aquinas’s comparatively moderate position on sexuality. Thus, Drury is offended that Catholicism made marriage a sacrament, but she lauds the Cathars as fellow Christians with a sunnier disposition about women and sexuality, notwithstanding the fact that the Cathars believed that the human body was a creation of an evil god. While she is keen to polemically ridicule Aquinas for her perceptions of his inconsistency, she doesn’t acknowledge the log in her own eye on this and other issues.Also, as “Aquinas and Modernity” by Shadia Drury amply demonstrates, the result can lead to basic mistakes of fact, unintentionally amusing logical gaffes and some classic examples of ignorant special pleading, bigotry and hatred. This is a particularly opportune moment to reflect on the elite bigotry of the leftist opinion class. As of the writing of this review, we are only a week removed from the Wikileak disclosure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign team expressing contempt for Aquinas and for Catholics who believe Catholic doctrine:“That’s not all. In another email exchange with the subject line “Conservative Catholicism,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri and Podesta co-author John Halpin appear to mock Catholics and evangelical Christians for their “backwards” views. Halpin ridicules Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch for raising his kids Catholic, declaring “Friggin’ Murdoch baptized his kids in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the SC and think tanks to the media and social groups. It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”Palmieri responds that Catholicism “is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.” “Excellent point,” Halpin responds, adding that “they can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.” Podesta is included on both emails.”You can almost visualize the “cool kids” sitting around complaining about those “nerds” who are unfairly getting all the good grades. Nonetheless, when the powerful and influential shapers of American policy find it necessary to revile a 13th Century Saint and his disciples, that is a demonstration of their fear and concern for ideas that remain vital and influential in the 21st century. It also brought cheer to the hearts of American Thomists who know that they must be doing something right to have such powerful political people clandestinely planning their own Inquisition against heretics influenced by Aquinas.Drury herself captures the unhinged paranoia of the Clinton team when she warns that Catholics are planning on putting secular humanists into death camps. She writes:“Nothing is more depressing than the nostalgia of modern Thomists for the world Aquinas struggled to preserve— a world they describe as “exemplary” and “paradigmatic,” full of “serenity” and “classic fullness.” 39 These scholars openly long for the Middle Ages. They think that the Inquisition is a small price to pay for serenity and classic fullness.”Well, she didn’t literally say death camp, but neither have any of the scholars she refers to ever said that they wanted a return of the Inquisition. Since she is constantly making these polemical extrapolations from the modest and sensible things that her opponents say, she certainly can’t object when her extreme statements are exaggerated for rhetorical effect. However, when you add this claim that Catholics are just waiting to break out the thumb screws and racks – a claim she makes constantly – with the bigoted statements of people with real political power, and, if you are Catholic, you begin to appreciate how Jews felt in Germany in 1932. Here is Drury venting through the person of “Modernity”:“That’s the trouble with you Christians. You preach the religion of love and forgiveness until you come to power, and then heaven help us! God the Son gives way to God the Father, and we are back to the Old Testament God of vengeance. It is very convenient to have more than one God.”Modernity is one snarky, ignorant biyatch! Given the millions that Modernity has sent to death camps, she is far too uppity. And what is this bit about having “more than one God”? Does Modernity want to make an argument about that? Or is misguided statements about theology all she has to offer?Here is another example of Drury’s propensity for making unhinged polemical statements:“The Dominican inquisitors believed that they were as infallible as God and were therefore above every human law.”Seriously? There is no citation to any source there – and Drury often fails to source her most controversial statements – but does anyone think that Dominican inquisitors really believed that they were as “infallible as God” and above human law? In Catholicism there is only one person who claims to be infallible, and the pope is infallible only under certain restricted conditions. Nonetheless, the accusation of “infallibility” obviously resonates with a kind of anti-Catholic bigotry that bears a historical grudge against the doctrine of papal infallibility.Drury’s book is clearly part of the elitist leftist project of attacking root and branch an alien and feared system of thought. She does this through polemics, distortion of history and mockery, rather than truth and fair argument. In fact, the single silliest part of her book – a “dialogue” where she gives herself the role of modernity and puts words into Aquinas’s mouth – she actually states that her “arguments” are “mocking.” Since mockery is not an argument, but the confession that one lacks a good argument, that is quite telling.Drury is a Canadian academic who gained notoriety for doing yeoman work in deconstructing an obscure Jewish academic who, according to Drury, was on the verge of instantiating the Fourth Reich in America….or something equally dire. She is a regular columnist for “Free Inquiry,” the house organ of the Council of Secular Humanism, which may explain why she reasons and writes like the typical unhinged New Atheist, which mostly involves rejecting the possibility of common ground and resorting to mockery as her standard mode of persuasion.Drury’s bigotry drips from virtually every page. Thus, for her:“In light of the moral depravity of their spiritual leaders and the iniquity of their church, it is a wonder that Catholics were capable of displaying such heroic moral courage. Such incidents are a manifestation of the innate decency of human beings, which belies the doctrine of original sin.”So, it seems that the real question ought be, why, given the iniquity of their church and the moral depravity of their spiritual leader and the falsity of the doctrine of original sin, it is a wonder that Catholics aren’t murdering and raping non-Catholics while they are waiting for a return of political power so they can restart the Inquisition?In the same vein, she cites apostate Catholic leftist Gary Wills, who disputes Catholic doctrines such as the priesthood and transubstantiation, whose political agenda is to attack the papacy in order to undermine recent popes who stand in the way of his non-Catholic theology, in order to ask:“But in view of the staggering number of dissolute and degenerate men who have ascended the papal throne, one is forced to wonder: Is the church destined to attract the lowest stratum of humanity? Or, alternately, do decent men risk becoming morally depraved by embarking on a career in the church?”Drury doesn’t mention Wills’ anti-Catholic agenda. To her, he is one of those “devout Catholics” who can be used as a witness for her bigotry.And:“Aquinas must have known that the history of the papacy has been a long story of ghoulish intrigue; the pontiffs were mostly scoundrels— and that means that the “science” of theology is based on nothing more than the authority of scoundrels.”Drury’s extremism is unintentionally funny:“In defending the absolute and inviolable authority of the church, Aquinas contributes to the entrenchment of a tyranny that surpassed all others in the history of mankind.”Worse than Stalinist Russia? Worse than Hitler’s Germany? Worse than Pol Pot’s Cambodia?You can just see the Humanist mind of Drury playing the Modernist game of re-writing history to avoid mentioning these secular tyrannies.And this:“the preservation and well-being of life in this world? Those who share the contemptu mundi of Innocent III, those who share the Christian predilection for gloom, those who brazenly declare that life in this world is a vale of tears, and those who despise humanity as nothing but “fuel for the eternal fires, food for worms, [and] a mass of rottenness” cannot be trusted with the task of preserving human life and happiness. 38 A policy that gives political power to such men is about as reasonable as making the fox the custodian of the safety and welfare of the chicken coop. For this sort of ecclesiast has a vested interest in making the world as miserable as it can be, since the proliferation of misery inspires humanity to cry out for redemption. Misery not only fills ecclesiastical coffers, it also provides tangible proof of the gruesome reality of existence. 39”So, this book is not even-handed, and you can well-imagine that this same unhinged polemical style is going to mar every particular issue Drury touches.And it does.Obviously a major arrow in Drury’s quiver is the Inquisition. Drury is writing a legal brief against Catholicism, not engaging in scholarship. Thus, she writes“Even Catholic scholars are stunned by the “inconceivable cruelty” of the wars within Christendom. See Josef Pieper, Guide to Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1962), p. 12.”But this is what Pieper wrote:“Dominic’s point of view was only strengthened by what he was compelled to witness, then and to the very end of his life, under his very eyes: the unspeakable cruelty of the Albigensian War. He was present at Lavaur in 1211 when, after the capture of the city, the heretics were stoned, burned, and crucified by the hundreds. But while this frenzy raged, the Dominican Order arose—although the Lateran Council had just decided that no new orders were to be confirmed. It was an order which distinguished itself in highly revolutionary fashion from the old orders. Its members had no stabilitas loci; they lived not in isolation but in the midst of cities. They practiced poverty in the literal sense: the poverty of beggars (begging had hitherto been forbidden to clerics 27).” Pieper, Josef. Guide to Thomas Aquinas (Kindle Locations 409-414). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.Pieper’s point was not that he was shocked by any “inconceivable cruelty” but that Dominic’s decision to form a mendicant order was a response to cruel war being waged on both sides. Further, Drury leaves out the following from her principle – nay, only – source on the Inquisition, Henry Charles Lea:“Yet it is noteworthy that in the inception of the plan there was no thought of employing force. The heretics of Languedoc lay defenceless at the feet of de Montfort, an easy prey to the spoiler, but Dominic’s project only looked to their peaceful conversion and to performing the duties of instruction and exhortation of which the Church had been so wholly neglectful.[221](Lea, Henry Charles. A History of The Inquisition of The Middle Ages, Volume 1 (p. 252). Duke Classics. Kindle Edition.)Dury doesn’t share this fact, since it cuts dramatically against her thesis that Christianity is just waiting for power to terrorize and oppress.Further, although Drury offers a lot of purple prose on the horror of the Inquisition, her only source is the classic, but outdated text of the anti-Catholic 19th Century amateur historian, Henry Charles Lea. Lea was firmly mired in the Black Legend of Protestantism that was common in his day, and, although he could find his way to some fair observations, like Drury, he execrated the Whore of Babylon. There are modern sources that demonstrate by reference to primary sources that the Inquisition had a light footprint and popular support. For example, for 400 years, there were less than 3,000 executions in the Spanish Inquisition. Further, although Drury claims that every heretic was brought before the Inquisition, and that they were always convicted, in fact, convictions were extremely rare. In The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246, the authors have to apologize for the fact that out of nearly 6,000 people subjected to inquisitorial process in Languedoc, none were burned, twenty-one men and two women who had “shamefully offended God and the Church” were all punished with perpetual incarceration in a “decent and humane prison, and around 200 were ordered to wear yellow crosses. Other books likewise bear out the fact that acquittals happened all the time. (See Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews and Other Heretics)Readers who have read only Drury would be shocked by this information, which may be why Drury rules out anything later than Lea as worthless apologetics:“Lea’s work is a gift of truth, which is like a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the disingenuous and revisionist history to which Catholic scholars are disposed. It is written in a style that is detached and factual. No one who has the smallest inkling of the facts could fail to understand why the “Holy Office” is an institution which has been regarded with universal horror and opprobrium, and why it remains unmatched in the history of human injustice, unreason, and inhumanity.”Based on the data this unmatched institution had a conviction rate that was a fraction of any modern system, which is highly suggestive of a deep concern for truth. It also suggests that the principle purpose of the Inquisition in Languedoc was education rather than terror or punishment. Nonetheless, it is certainly ironic that a Secular Modernist like Drury rejects modern scholarship in favor of the “fresh air” of 19th Century anti-Catholic prejudice.Drury commits scholarly malpractice by insinuating that the anti-mendicant violence in Paris when Aquinas went there in the mid-13th Century was because of popular attitudes against the Inquisition. All scholarly books attest that the reason for this violence was the fact that the mendicant orders in intruding into the monopoly held by the existing teachers and the role of the orders in breaking the recent teaches’ strike. Drury doesn’t mention that her stalking horse, William of Amour, was advocating violence against the mendicants and that, notwithstanding his advocacy of various heresies, William was allowed to retire to his hometown and die a peaceful death twenty years after he was exiled from Paris for his agitation.Drury consistently argues that Aquinas advocated for “the Inquisition,” but if by “the Inquisition,” she means the fanciful system that monitored and convicted everyone, this is not true. Aquinas certainly did not have a problem with the death penalty for heretics, but as he pointed out, the death penalty was given out for forgery. It was a different time with different attitudes. Unlike other crimes, however, heretics were permitted to escape punishment by confession and correction, at least for lapse. The point is that the Dominicans viewed their primary role as education, not punishment. Nonetheless, if a baptized Christian persisted in opposing the truth taught by Christianity as Aquinas, pointed out, the Church did not interpose itself between the heretic and secular law. In short, the treatment of heresy was surprisingly liberal compared to the treatment of other crimes.Incidentally, Drury strategically ignores the fact that punishment for heresy was dictated by secular law. Drury conveniently ignores the fact that Frederick II enacted secular laws against heresy in his domains. This should hardly be surprising since history books repeatedly point out that being Christian was identified as a sine qua non of being a lawful subject of Christendom. There was no category for lawful subjects of Christian kingdoms who were not Christian at this time.So, if Drury’s point is that Aquinas was not a 21st century liberal Canadian, point made. However, if that is her point, then her book is an exercise in anachronism, which it is.Drury responds to this point in her pathetic “dialogue” by arguing that she – in the voice of Modernity – is not judging Aquinas by the standards of Modernity, but rather by the standards of Christianity. However, she doesn’t show any competence in that area, particularly as opposed to Aquinas, who had a breadth of Christian knowledge. It may be unfortunate to contemplate, but it seems that even Christians are entitled to protect themselves from unprovoked aggression, as was the case with the Crusades, and from disloyalty and subversion, as was the case with the Inquisition. Modernity is no different; the only difference is that Modernity wants to pat itself on the back for its tolerance when the truth is that it simply doesn’t care about religion the same way that it cares about climate change, about which, recently, we have been hearing about leftists using the power of the state to criminalize people who dare – dare! – to disbelieve in the Gospel of Global Warming.