ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE MAGISTERIUM TO TEACH NATURAL LAW A COMPARISON OF THE THOUGHT OF THOMAS AQUINAS AND JOSEF FUCHS (CATHOLIC)
There has been much discussion in recent years concerning the authority of the episcopal magisterium to teach on concrete moral issues. Supporters of the magisterium's authority have frequently argued that Christ commissioned the apostles and their successors as teachers, and guaranteed them the assistance of the Holy Spirit, so that the faithful might have certain and unfailing guidance amidst the distractions of sin. Today, however, widespread dissent from some of the magisterium's teachings has made appealing to the sinfulness of man less convincing. That so many conclude to positions different from the magisterium's cannot be due solely to the influence of sin. The dissertation offers as an additional reason the insufficiency of reason in moral evaluation. In classical times, morality was equated with justice, and justice with conformity to an order that transcended the individual, whether the larger order of the universe or the derivative order of the state. The goods that comprise man's full development--truth, health, offspring, etc.--had their source in this order. Moral conflicts were resolved by subordinating all goods to the overriding value of the objective order--or in other words, according to reason's idea of human perfection. Christianity brought a new view. The objective order is grounded in God through Christ. Thus, it is in conformity to Christ that we attain perfection. Christ gives their form to all the goods--human life, human sexuality, marriage, etc.--and we can understand them fully only when we know Christ. But Christ must be revealed to man; and so revelation is necessary if reason is to be a clear guide to perfection. So, too, the record of revelation is the basis of the episcopal magisterium's unique authority; for they have a special authority to teach Scripture. Recent efforts to pay reason its due in morality have led some theologians, notably Josef Fuchs, to shift the focus away from Christ and back onto the human. What has followed is not only a limiting of the magisterium's authority, but the secularization of the moral life.
KEVIN A MCMAHON,
"ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE MAGISTERIUM TO TEACH NATURAL LAW A COMPARISON OF THE THOUGHT OF THOMAS AQUINAS AND JOSEF FUCHS (CATHOLIC)"
(January 1, 1984).
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